USAF General John E. Hyten, commander of US Strategic Command, that is the combatant command responsible for all the nation’s nuclear forces and for ballistic missile defense, has been nominated to be Vice Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Under most circumstances the nomination of a general who has spent most of his life subject to the constant scrutiny imposed upon anyone in the Personnel Reliability Program would have ensure fairly smooth sailing. One might question whether we really want an Air Force officer who has spent a lot of time in a stovepipe career field as the number two officer in the US Armed Forces, but other than that philosophical question, it should have been smooth sailing. It isn’t.
Col. Kathryn Spletstoser has accused Hyten, who is currently responsible for the country’s nuclear arsenal as the head of U.S. Strategic Command, of making unwanted sexual contact with her on several occasions in 2017 while the two were traveling for work.
Spletstoser accuses General Hyten of sexual assault on several occasions:
The first time was in January 2017, she alleges, when Hyten grabbed her left hand as she was exiting a work meeting in his hotel room in Palo Alto, Calif., pulling it in toward his groin so she could feel his erection before she moved her hand away. In June 2017, Spletstoser said, Hyten interrupted a work meeting in his Washington, D.C., hotel room to fondle her breasts and kiss her — and she pushed him away and admonished him, she said. That prompted Hyten to panic, she said, and ask her through tears: “Are you going to tell on me?” Though she felt he had clearly “crossed a line,” she assured him she would not, she said.
Yet it was during the Reagan National Defense Forum in December 2017 that Spletstoser said Hyten made his most aggressive move, arriving uninvited at her hotel room in workout clothes carrying a binder, and claiming he wanted to discuss work matters. Within minutes, Spletstoser said, Hyten had pinned her against him and begun “grinding on me hard, like he wants to take my clothes off and have sex . . . and then I realize, he’s ejaculating.”
Pardon me if I find this latter tale difficult to take seriously. Hyten had aides and he had a personal security detail. I just don’t see how this happened.
Here’s the problem. While the allegations appear to be “he-said-she-said” because they were made against a general officer they have actually been investigated. The results aren’t terribly helpful to Spletstoser.
The Air Force’s Office of Special Investigations investigated Spletstoser’s allegations but could not substantiate her claims. In a statement, U.S. Strategic Command spokesman Bill Clinton said the command had “fully cooperated” with the probe, noting that Air Force officials found that “there was insufficient evidence to support any finding of misconduct on the part of Gen. Hyten.”
But according to a former senior Air Force official privy to the investigation’s findings, the testimony of other witnesses directly contradicts Spletstoser’s accusations. The official said that sometimes, Spletstoser also contradicted herself, though she disputes that claim.
In fact, former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson, a biological female (somehow it seems to be more and more necessary to add this qualifying statement these days) said, “I believe General Hyten was falsely accused.”
Spletstoser claims she had her career ruined because she wouldn’t go along, others claim that her career was ruined because she was pretty f***ed up at her job and then made the allegations to try to salvage her career.
Spletstoser’s service records, which she provided to The Washington Post, indicate that she had routinely received accolades from her commanders before that point. Hyten wrote in late 2017 that she was in the “top 1%” of all the people in her rank that “I have seen in my 36 years of service,” noting that she was “ready today” to be promoted to brigadier general. The authenticity of the documents could not be verified.
Sworn statements, provided by Spletstoser, from the inquiry into her professional conduct that concluded in early 2018 indicated that while some in the command took offense at her “negative behavior,” they also blamed Hyten for giving her “the highest of top-cover.”
In the interview, Spletstoser acknowledged that she was tough, foulmouthed and often brusque — traits that she attributes to her Army background and the fact that part of her job was to “clean house” in her group. But she said that after Hyten’s management style was questioned, she believes he attempted to “destroy me and my life, my career, everything” to protect his reputation.
Let me say a word about hyperbole in officer efficiency reports. What Hyten said about Spletstoser he’s probably said about a dozen other officers. When an officer’s record goes before a board it sort of appears in a vacuum. There is no way to know what the rater’s have said about your contemporaries without an in-depth inquiry. The real question before you as you write an efficiency report is “do I want this officer promoted.” It you do, then that officer gets over-the-top praise. I, myself, have been at least once styled “the best company commander in the division” and have had early promotion and accelerate schooling recommended dozens of times. That and $12.77 will get me a ersatz cup of Third World coffee at Starbucks.
The fact that Spletstoser was relieved as the result of an outside investigation, not by Hyten telling her to pack her sh** and get off the battlefield speaks volumes. The fact that Hyten is criticized in that investigation for protecting her is also significant.
The dilemma facing Senate Democrats is how to handle charges of sexual harassment or sexual assault when the charges have been exhaustively investigated and when the complainant seems to be acting in retaliation for an adverse personnel action. Will Hyten get the full Kavanaugh treatment despite Wilson’s opinion that he’s the victim here? Or will the #MeToo harpies concede that women are just as capable (just…hahahaha) of acting vindictively as men to settle scores? Will the Senate Armed Services Committee take the position that any male officer is de facto guilty of any allegation of sexual misconduct no matter how detailed the investigation clearing him? Will “Believe Women” be revealed to everyone as the pseudo-religious cult many of us have known it was since the Clarence Thomas hearing? Will Mike Pence give Hyten advice on how to conduct himself socially in he future if he hasn’t figured that out yet?