Navy Secretary John Dalton is leaving after five years as head of the service.

Dalton, 56, said Monday he plans to return to the private sector at the end of the year but did not say what he will do.At a Pentagon briefing, Dalton recounted the challenges facing the department when he took office: a need to improve its reputation and upgrade its operations.

"Today the Navy-Marine Corps team enjoys an unquestioned reputation as a total fighting force without equal, forward deployed and ready, anytime, anywhere," he said. "We went back to the basics, emphasizing our core values of honor, courage and commitment in everything we do."

The Navy's image suffered after the Tailhook sexual assault scandal in 1991. And the prestigious Naval Academy was rocked by allegations of drug use, larceny and worse.