Updating a story broken here yesterday, the Air Force has now publicly confirmed that Gen. Art Lichte, former commander of Air Mobility Command (AMC), is under investigation for sexually assaulting a subordinate in three incidents dating back several years.
Lichte, who retired with more the 38 years in the USAF and serves on the board of directors of Air Transport Services Group, led AMC between 2007 and 2009. He was known during his tenure in command for his conservative decisions, pragmatic philosophy, and gentlemanly demeanor. He now faces allegations of having used his position and power to coerce sexual activity from a female subordinate on at least three occasions.
In a response given to John Q. Public, spokesman Col. Patrick Ryder provided the official Air Force position on the matter:
“We are aware of the allegations and will conduct a thorough investigation. Due to the ongoing nature of the investigation, it would be inappropriate to comment further. However, I can tell you that the Air Force takes all allegations of sexual assault or harassment very seriously. We are committed to upholding the high standards and values of our service and ensuring an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault or harassment is not tolerated, and where there is clear accountability placed on all Airmen at every level.”
That statement makes pretty clear just how vulnerable to criticism the service feels in light of fresh allegations implicating one of its most senior officials. While facts remain sparse at this point, one thing is clear: this promises to be an ugly scandal that will renew calls for military justice reform. As well it should.
Lichte has thus far been unresponsive to requests for comment and is not answering his phone. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.