September 26, 2019 / 9:39 PM / 2 months ago

Senate confirms Hyten as vice chairman of Joint Chiefs

FILE PHOTO: Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten speaks at a Senate Armed Services hearing on the proposal to establish a U.S. Space Force, in Washington, U.S., April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed General John Hyten to be the second-highest-ranking military official, despite an allegation he sexually assaulted a female officer under his command.

The vote was 75-22 in favor of Hyten being the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

An official Air Force investigation did not substantiate the accusations against Hyten. Several lawmakers concluded after hearing from both Hyten and the accuser that the four-star general had been falsely accused.

Hyten vehemently denied the sexual assault allegations against him at his confirmation hearing in July.

His accuser, Army Colonel Kathryn Spletstoser, sat quietly in the room during the hearing, occasionally shaking her head in disagreement. She afterward told reporters that Hyten had lied to the senators under oath.

“As with all nominees that come before the Senate, we have done due diligence to ensure that not only is General Hyten capable and qualified, but the best candidate for the job,” Senator Jim Inhofe, Republican of Oklahoma and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement after the vote.

Hyten’s nomination posed a challenge to the Senate, which for years has criticized the military for failing to do enough to combat sexual assault in its ranks.

Sexual assaults in the military climbed nearly 38 percent in 2018 compared with a survey two years earlier, data that critics say laid bare broken Pentagon promises of a crackdown.

The campaign against sexual assault in the military gained momentum in March when Republican Senator Martha McSally, the first female combat pilot in the U.S. Air Force, said she had been raped by a superior officer.

Reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by Dan Grebler

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