Navy Supply Community Committee on Ethics … Back to the Basics

June 9, 2015
As we continue our Supply Community discussions on ethics and ethical decision-making, it is readily apparent that the Supply Corps has a solid grounding in ethics and a strong cultural drive to do the right thing. The enduring Supply Corps ethos is at our core. While there are some who have purposefully chosen to do wrong and even break the law, they are few and far between and NOT representative of who we are and what we believe. The unique nature of our role as the Navy’s business managers requires an uncompromising degree of stewardship for public funds and property, and the Supply Corps as a whole has a centuries-old solid reputation of business ethics and decision-making. In the recent Navy Supply Community Stand-down, we focused on ethical decision-making and safe navigation of gray areas. However, it is almost impossible to navigate these gray areas without a strong functional understanding of the foundational rules – and that means going back to the basics. Fortunately, this reinforces one of the first lessons we learned as Supply Corps Officers in the Basic Qualification Course (BQC) … punch the pubs and find the right answer in regulations, instructions, or other guidance. The primary reference is always the answer we can base our actions on. The primary ethics reference for DoD employees, including U.S. military personnel, is the Joint Ethics Regulation (JER), DoD 5500.7-R, which incorporates and expands on 5 C.F.R. Part 2635 and Executive Order 12731, which collectively set forth the ethics rules for all U.S. Government employees. Figure 1 depicts the 14 foundational principles of ethical conduct expected of all U.S. Government employees, and is included here to refresh our memory on the Standards of Ethical Conduct. The entire JER is comprehensive and worth downloading to become more familiar with the extra detail it provides. The line communities rely on our knowledge, quality service, and business ethics to steer them on the right course. The Supply Corps must maintain a special trust with the line as we manage all facets of contracts, logistics, and financial management to ensure the proper supplies and services are delivered on time, at the right cost, and meet all operational requirements and performance standards. Our core knowledge of the applicable laws, regulations, rules, and guidance keeps us on the right path and ensures day-to-day operations run smoothly. Make no mistake – ethics is a readiness issue! No one is perfect. We all make mistakes and mistakes are often the quickest path to learning. But, intentional disregard for rules, choosing to remain ignorant about rules, or personally-manipulating interpretation of rules to satisfy superiors are all sure paths to failure. When you’re not sure what is right or wrong, it’s always prudent to start with a check of the reference. The process might take longer or be more difficult when we do it the right way, but doing things right is the honorable thing to do and the only way to maintain the special trust placed on our Corps. We will occasionally be tested by complex moral and ethical situations beyond the bounds of printed regulations. In those cases, it is critical to realize that you can count on other Supply Corps officers to lead you in the right direction. If you have a question, ask. If you think something isn’t right, speak up. In this way, our actions will bring nothing but credit to the United States Navy and the Navy Supply Corps. The Navy Supply Corps Code of Professional Responsibility was first published in 1999, but remains equally relevant today. Closing this column with the final paragraph of the code captures the essence of this month’s message: I am aware of my place in the Supply Corps’ proud tradition and reputation for excellence, which has endured for two centuries and more, and am inspired by the example of my predecessors. To the significant challenges which face me today, I shall bring to bear every fiber of my creativity, technical expertise, and commitment, and I shall do so without compromising my honor or integrity as a United States Naval Officer.