Senate to Hold Confirmation for Hyten Amid Sexual Assault Accusations

Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testifies for the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C. March 28, 2019. (DoD photo/EJ Hersom)
Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, testifies for the House Armed Services Committee in Washington, D.C. March 28, 2019. (DoD photo/EJ Hersom)

The Senate Armed Services Committee will hold a confirmation hearing for Air Force Gen. John Hyten for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff next week following private deliberations by lawmakers over recently unearthed sexual-assault accusations against him.

In a statement Thursday, Chairman Sen. James Inhofe, R-Oklahoma, said after members of the committee had devoted "many hours" reviewing records and holding sessions to discuss Hyten's nomination on "their own time," they would proceed with a public confirmation hearing July 30.

"Through a fair, thorough and methodical process, each member was able to ask questions, receive answers, review documents, listen to testimony, conduct analysis and express their opinions," Inhofe said. "Next Tuesday, the members of the committee will have the opportunity to consider General Hyten's nomination in a public forum. I look forward to hearing from General Hyten then."

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Lawmakers interviewed Hyten Thursday. They also interviewed his accuser, a senior military officer who previously worked for Hyten, earlier this week, according to a report from Defense News. His accuser is reportedly an Army colonel.

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 an initial report form DefenseOne on July 10. The senior officer subsequently told The Associated Press that Hyten "subjected her to a series of unwanted sexual advances by kissing, hugging and rubbing up against her."

"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 reported. 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 of the Joint Chiefs in December. Lawmakers confirmed Milley for the position Thursday.

With Hyten's appearance scheduled for July 30, the committee has pushed back the confirmation hearing for Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday to be the next Chief of Naval Operations to July 31.

The Air Force has yet to release its redacted investigation into Hyten.

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

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