Integrity is a primary element of military professionalism and the hallmark of the professional officer. Without it, the profession loses the trust of the society it serves, and lack of public trust ultimately threatens the nation’s ability to maintain the force levels necessary for peace and security. In other words, a lack or perceived lack of integrity can have a devastating effect on the military profession and its relationship with civilian society.
Society expects and requires integrity of its leaders. The official policy of the United States government addresses the subject of integrity in these words: "Where government is based on the consent of the governed, every citizen is entitled to have complete confidence in the integrity of his government."2 Air Force Regulation 30-1 states, in part, that ". . . a member of the Air Force . . . must practice the highest standards of integrity. . . . [His or her] ‘sense of right and wrong’ must be such that . . . behavior and motives are above suspicion."3 Both statements imply a relationship between integrity and society’s expectations. Can a relationship be established between society’s perception of institutional integrity and its acceptance of the military institution? An answer to this question should help the military professional clarify his relationship to his profession and to the society he serves.
A Concept of Integrity
Most military readers undoubtedly feel that the meanings of integrity and professionalism are well known. But even though officers know the meaning of professionalism, the officer corps apparently has no common understanding of the term. For example, a survey conducted at Air University in 1981 suggests that
Air Force officers should clearly define what they mean when using the word "professional." Since almost all officers consider themselves to be professionals, the use of the word, without clarification, is meaningless. The key is to zero-in on the...