Old Sexual Assault Allegation Surfaces Against Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Nominee

Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command talks integrated command relationships and the role of information and intelligence to the combatant commands during the 2018 Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference August 13, 2018, in Omaha, Nebraska. (DoD photo/Brian Murphy)
Gen. John E. Hyten, commander, U.S. Strategic Command talks integrated command relationships and the role of information and intelligence to the combatant commands during the 2018 Department of Defense Intelligence Information System Worldwide Conference August 13, 2018, in Omaha, Nebraska. (DoD photo/Brian Murphy)

Senate lawmakers were briefed Wednesday over sexual-assault allegations, found to be unsubstantiated, concerning Air Force Gen. John Hyten, head of U.S. Strategic Command and the general tapped by President Donald Trump to be the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to a report from DefenseOne.

The incident, which Air Force investigators said could not be corroborated during an extensive investigation, allegedly occurred between late 2017 and early 2018, according to DefenseOne, which cited multiple defense and congressional aides with knowledge of the investigation.

A senior defense official anonymously told the publication that the allegations, which included complaints of "an unprofessional relationship" and "abusive sexual contact," were reported to the Air Force in April. The accuser contacted the Senate Armed Services Committee directly, DefenseOne said. Hyten is supposed to go before an SASC panel soon to begin his confirmation process.

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"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 Gen. Hyten," Air Force Col. DeDe Halfhill, director of defense public affairs operations, said in a statement following the news.

"Gen. Hyten cooperated with the investigation," Halfhill said in an email. "With more than 38 years of service to our nation, Gen. Hyten has proven himself to be a principled and dedicated patriot."

Investigators spoke with more than 50 witnesses in three countries and 13 U.S. states, DefenseOne said. The findings were passed to the court-martial convening authority, Gen. Mike Holmes, head of Air Combat Command, who did not pursue administrative or disciplinary action, ruling there was no evidence to refer charges.

If confirmed, Hyten would take over from Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who is retiring. He would serve with Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, who was nominated as the next chairman in December. Milley's confirmation hearing is scheduled for Thursday.

As STRATCOM chief, Hyten has emphasized the need for nuclear modernization and expanded communications, as well as the growing demand for improved defenses in space against near-peer adversaries such as Russia and China.

Prior to his current post, he was vice commander and then commander of Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, between 2012 and 2016, according to his official biography.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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