US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten appears at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C., on July 30, 2019. Defense Department photo by Lisa Ferdinando.
A shortened, redacted report on the Air Force’s investigation into sexual assault claims levied against US Strategic Command boss Gen. John Hyten by his former subordinate paints a picture of an outwardly professional relationship between a calm, cordial four-star and a sometimes brash, outspoken assistant.
Air Force officials did not find enough evidence to take action against Hyten, who is awaiting Senate confirmation to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Air Force released the OSI report Aug. 16.
One interviewee said Army Col. Kathryn Spletsoser, who led Hyten’s Commander’s Action Group, may have made claims of sexual misconduct in retaliation for a command investigation into her “toxic” workplace behavior. She was ultimately removed from her CAG position. STRATCOM also released a 230-page report on that deep-dive Aug. 16.
In interviews with colleagues of Hyten and Spletstoser, the Air Force determined the two frequently traveled together and that it wasn’t unusual for them to meet one-on-one. But the report stated Spletstoser tried to isolate Hyten from other staff members and interrupted his meetings with others.
“[Spletstoser] was regularly blunt and would banter with [Hyten], but at one point, [Hyten] told her, ‘I am tired of having an O-6 yelling at me,’ while she was in his office,” the report said.
People described their relationship as one between a father and daughter, or an official and his close adviser, and said no inappropriate touching or conversations occurred. The two later had a falling out that led some to fear violence against Hyten, according to the report.
“[Hyten] was provided additional security as [he] indicated he wanted to ‘separate himself from the matters of the investigation,’” the report said. “[Hyten] expressed regret towards the situation as [he] had not seen how [Spletstoser] had ‘treated her people.’”
Spletstoser has said the Air Force mishandled the investigation into incidents that allegedly occurred between February 2017 and February 2018, and believes her workplace temperament is typical of an Army officer. Those who looked into the claims of bad leadership found that the colonel “is not self-aware in terms of how her communication style and interpersonal skills are interpreted by others,” according to STRATCOM documents.
The Senate is expected to move forward with Hyten’s nomination when lawmakers return to Capitol Hill in September.