The core values aren’t enough

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Benjamin Martin
  • 88th Air Base Wing Judge Advocate

 WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Several years ago, while completing another round of professional military education, I encountered a quote that still lives in my head. In the Spring 1997 edition of the Airpower Journal, Col. Charles Myers described the core values as a guide for Airmen navigating complex environments. He offered one caveat: “A person can be forthrightly honest, forget about self and achieve excellent results — all for the sake of an evil purpose.”

He’s right. A zombie or killer robot would also comply with our core values. The zombie could be excellent at eating brains. The killer robot could be exceedingly clear and transparent in its evil intentions and prioritize the robot swarm army above its own interests. Clearly, the behavior of the zombie and robot wouldn’t be considered moral or ethical. 

Fortunately, there are several resources that serve as a necessary supplement to our core values.
Lt. Col. Benjamin Martin, Judge Advocate, 88 ABW

Fortunately, there are several resources that serve as a necessary supplement to our core values. The code of conduct is extremely powerful. The “Little Blue Book,” created by Gen. Ronald Fogleman, the Air Force's fifteenth chief of staff, expands on our core values to tie in several praiseworthy concepts. Our oath of office directs us back towards our responsibility to support and defend the Constitution. The Airman’s Creed reminds us of why we joined and grounds us in the legacy or our forbearers.

Among this illustrious group, I also suggest Airmen familiarize themselves with Executive Order 12674. In 1989, President George H.W. Bush issued EO 12674, “Principles of Ethical Conduct for Government Officers and Employees.” This order, since supplemented by subsequent administrations, lays out 14 principles that guide military and civilian employees as they perform their duties on behalf of American taxpayers. I encourage you take a minute to review these 14 principles.

  1. Public service is a public trust, requiring employees to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain.
  2. Employees shall not hold financial interests that conflict with the conscientious performance of duty.
  3. Employees shall not engage in financial transactions using nonpublic Government information or allow the improper use of such information to further any private interest.
  4. An employee shall not, except as permitted by subpart B of this part, solicit or accept any gift or other item of monetary value from any person or entity seeking official action from, doing business with, or conducting activities regulated by the employee’s agency, or whose interests may be substantially affected by the performance or nonperformance of the employee’s duties.
  5. Employees shall put forth honest effort in the performance of their duties.
  6. Employees shall not knowingly make unauthorized commitments or promises of any kind purporting to bind the Government.
  7. Employees shall not use public office for private gain.
  8. Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.
  9. Employees shall protect and conserve Federal property and shall not use it for other than authorized activities.
  10. Employees shall not engage in outside employment or activities, including seeking or negotiating for employment, that conflict with the official Government duties and responsibilities.
  11. Employees shall disclose waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption to the appropriate authorities.
  12. Employees shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those—such as Federal, State, or local taxes—that are imposed by law.
  13. Employees shall adhere to all laws and regulations that provide equal opportunity for all Americans regardless of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or handicap.
  14. Employees shall endeavor to avoid any actions creating the appearance that they are violating the law or the ethical standards set forth in this part.

The Air Force core values inspire Airmen at the most basic level, but the spirit of our core values lies in an application anchored in a solid and specific foundation of ethics and behaviors. Fortunately, Airmen are not left without resource or guidance to practice integrity, service and excellence that promotes the welfare of their nation.