In the US, the nomination of General John Hyten as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) has been mired in controversy as allegations of sexual misconduct against him by a senior military officer have resurfaced.
On Wednesday, a senior US military official said that an Air Force investigation found no evidence to support the accusations.
Yet, Congress members are now raising questions about the allegations as well as the probe by the military, with some fearing that Hyten may have been dealt with leniently because of his senior position.
According to the US Air Force website, Hyten is the Commander of US Strategic Command, one of ten Unified Commands under the Department of Defense, a position to which he was appointed in 2016.
After attending Harvard University, he pursued a long career in the US military where his assignments included space acquisition and operations positions. He also worked on anti-satellite weapon system programs.
Based on a report by the Associated Press, the military service member said that Hyten subjected her to a series of unwanted sexual advances by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her while she was one of his aides. She also said that Hyten tried to derail her career if she acted against him.
Later, when the General was nominated in April, the officer brought forth allegations of nine incidents between 2017 and 2018. Subsequently, an internal investigation was launched against Hyten by the US Air Force, which found insufficient evidence to press charges against him. The Pentagon statement said: “After a comprehensive investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, there was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of General Hyten. General Hyten has cooperated with the investigation. With more than 38 years of service to our nation, General Hyten has proven himself to be a principled and dedicated patriot.”
Fears of preferential treatment
The woman accusing Hyten, who remains unidentified except to AP, has expressed worry that Hyten may have received special treatment due to his senior rank, while also fearing that her motives might be questioned given that she brought forth the allegations after the nomination.
In a letter to the acting Defense Secretary, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Duckworth wrote that Hyten “remains in command while under criminal investigation raises serious questions about whether the Department is affording General Hyten preferential treatment because of his rank and pending nomination.”
While the Senate is expected to question Hyten over the investigation report, Senator Duckworth even asked that Congress be allowed to speak to the accuser, adding that it could either be a closed or an open meeting.