Almost two years ago, the Strategic Studies Institute published an incredibly accurate depiction of the culture of lying that is so pervasive throughout the U.S. Army, specifically amongst the Officer corps and senior leadership, but also throughout the NCO ranks.

In surprising detail, the authors of the study pick apart all of the little examples of dishonesty that occur on a daily basis, and show how it correlates to the ostensibly ‘shocking’ lapses of integrity when senior officers are caught red handed using a GPC to pay for strippers, as just one (recent) example.

I’m certainly not so naïve to think that there was ever a time when there wasn’t lying throughout the army or military. Supply Sergeants have had to make shit happen since Valley Forge, and often times we really don’t want to know how they did it. But those instances should rightly be reserved for times in extremis, not as the foundation for how we conduct operations and reporting, which is sadly the case now.

When I was a cadet at West Point, we were brought up from day one with the Academy’s mantra: Duty, Honor, Country. The concept of integrity and honor was woven into every aspect of our daily lives. There was an honor code, and it wasn’t just some passing thing we paid lip service to. If you popped off and said you did 72 pushups instead of your actual 70 on the PT test, you could be ‘found’ as an honor violator and expelled. If you borrowed a friend’s homework and copied his work because you didn’t have time to do it yourself, and neglected to cite that you had copied it, you could be expelled.

But the key to the honor code as it related to the lifestyle there wasn’t just that it was a rule to follow. If you got found for honor and expelled, there was shame involved. You had proven yourself unworthy to lead soldiers, because you didn’t have the intestinal fortitude to own up to your mistakes and just not lie.

I firmly believed in that system because I thought it held us accountable, and watching the officers at the Academy so ruthlessly enforce the tenets of the honor code on those cadets deemed dishonorable made me really believe that the Army cared about it.

The first time I sat in on a Battalion training meeting, it became blindingly obvious that not only were officers comfortable with lying about just about everything, it was impossible to get around it.

Ask anyone who has dealt with DTMS (Digital Training Management System) or done USR (Unit Status Report) reporting. Numbers matter to senior leaders in the military. If the slide shows red, instead of green, questions will start getting asked. OERs (Officer Evaluation Reports) will reflect. Your chances at a key position will disappear.