WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US military plans to examine whether senior officers need all the aides and advisers currently assigned to them as it seeks to shore up professional ethics among the top brass.

Officials announced the move Friday after a series of embarrassing scandals and investigations of senior commanders, with one US Army general demoted over allegations he spent government funds on an extravagant lifestyle.

The military’s top officer, General Martin Dempsey, recommended a review of “the level and type of support senior leaders receive in the execution of their duties to ensure it is necessary and to ensure we are being consistent, sensible and efficient,” Pentagon spokesman George Little told reporters.

Dempsey also concluded that ethics training programs were “appropriate” but “we need to start earlier and reinforce that training more frequently in an officer’s career,” said Little, citing the general’s findings.

Defence Secretary Leon Panetta asked Dempsey to look at the issue on November 15 and passed on the general’s “initial” recommendations to President Barack Obama this week, Little said.

Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will now carry out a more in-depth examination of professional standards among senior officers in the coming months, the spokesman said. “This is going to be a dialogue that’s going to take some time,” said Little, adding: “No final decisions have been reached.”

The focus on ethics follows a sex scandal that forced the military’s most celebrated officer, retired four-star general David Petraeus, to resign as CIA director over an extra-marital affair with his biographer.

The outgoing commander of US and Nato troops in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has been caught up in the Petraeus affair, as the Pentagon inspector general is investigating the officer’s potentially “inappropriate” email exchanges with a Florida woman linked to the scandal.

Recent revelations have painted a picture of some military leaders living a privileged existence, unlike the troops they lead, with critics saying the senior officer corps has become increasingly unaccountable for their actions.

US Army General William “Kip” Ward was demoted from four to three stars last month for allegedly spending government funds on lavish trips and has been ordered to reimburse $82,000 in Pentagon travel funds.

Former Defence secretary Robert Gates voiced concern recently that the perks and retinue that generals and admirals enjoy can affect an officer’s judgment.