Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, who brought allegations against President Donald Trump's nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has a history of making unsubstantiated allegations against supervisors whom she says slighted her.
While Gen. John Hyten, the leader of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), was nominated by Trump in April, his nomination was delayed for a comprehensive investigation by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. His nomination was approved by a vote of 20-7 in the Senate Armed Services Committee last week and a vote will be held before the full Senate in future weeks, according to Mollie Hemingway of the Federalist:
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The Air Force investigation found no merit to the dozens of unsubstantiated claims made by Col. Kathryn Spletstoser in the last couple of years, as well as a history of unsubstantiated claims levied against supervisors. Colleagues of Spletstoser say she had anger issues, bullied subordinates, and had an incredibly foul mouth. They say she’s lying. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who has vocally opposed Hyten "given the disturbing allegations" against him, did not show up to the Senate Executive Session in which the Air Force investigation findings were confidentially revealed and discussed.
Spletstoser levied dozens of allegations against several supervisors following the loss of her job in 2018, but she had made unsubstantiated allegations previously as well. For instance, two years after a good, but not great, performance review in 2007 that she believed had kept her from being selected for battalion command, Spletstoser appealed and claimed the man who gave her the review had sexually harassed her throughout her tour of duty in Iraq.
Spletstoser claimed the person who did her performance review "gave her the choice of either getting on her scheduled flight or coming back to his containerized housing unit to renegotiate her evaluation report by performing sexual favors" on the day she left Iraq, despite her commander denying the accusation. She attempted to get her review rescinded, but the Army Suitability Review Board did not accept the request.
She then appealed the ruling to the Army Board for the Correction of Military Records, which also denied her claim and stated her "Applicant’s scorched earth attack on the [performance review], much of which is patently specious, undermines her overall credibility. Tellingly, applicant has proffered not a single statement from a third party supporting her version of events."
The Federalist reported that the sexual assault allegations against Hyten weren't the first unsubstantiated allegations Spletstoser, who has made dozens of allegations against Hyten and other superiors, has made.
In March 2016, Spletstoser was assigned to Strategic Command as director of the Commander’s Action Group. Strategic Command is headquartered at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. Hyten and Spletstoser got along very well, and he repeatedly praised her and her work, although other colleagues found her to be abrasive and difficult.
Maj. Gen. Daniel L. Karbler, who was Hyten’s chief of staff, initiated an inquiry into the workplace climate of Strategic Command in November 2017 in response to staff concerns about Spletstoser’s leadership style. That inquiry found that people called Spletstoser "bipolar" and "toxic."
Army regulations require an investigation of field officers with these types of reviews and a formal review, called an AR 15-6, was initiated. When Hyten told her this, Karbler said Spletstoser stood up and said "I quit," and began leaving the office. Karbler told her to return to her seat, as she had not been dismissed. He said she became upset and claimed she "hated STRATCOM" and "was bored" there.
The investigation, which was completed in February 2018, found that Spletstoser had "fostered a hostile work environment," and that her behavior negatively affected cooperation with other headquarters. It found she was a "toxic leader" with a "destructive leadership style." It also found that she had been quite supportive of Hyten but at the expense of how other staff were treated.
When the AR 15-6 review resulted in a recommendation that Spletstoser "receive a reprimand, be removed as director, and be given executive coach training to improve her interpersonal skills." When Spletstoser learned of the decision from Karbler, she threatened to kill herself in 24 hours if Hyten didn't "right this wrong." Others received similar emails that alluded to suicide, which prompted the Office of Special Investigations to track her down to her off-base apartment. After she was taken into Emergency Protective Custody and sent to the University of Nebraska Medical Center, she would later apologize to her colleagues a few days later, claiming she had a brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder. She also promised to get help and began preparing for retirement.
She rescinded her retirement application by June 2018 and started making allegations against supervisors, including Karbler. The Air Force investigation, which included a team of 53 investigators interviewing 63 people in three countries and 14 states, a review of more than 196,000 emails and 4,000 pages of documents, proved unsuccessful in finding corroborating evidence of her claims of sexual assault, the Federalist reported.