The four-star general who headed the U.S. Army’s training and recruiting efforts has been relieved of his duties after an investigation into allegations of sexual misconduct, defense officials said on Tuesday.
In a rare punishment of a four-star officer — the highest rank in the military — Gen. Kevin Byrnes, 52, was fired as commanding general of the Army Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe in Virginia by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army said in a statement.
Army officials did not rule out the possibility of criminal charges or additional administrative discipline.
“The investigation upon which this relief is based is undergoing further review to determine the appropriate final disposition of this matter,” the Army said.
“He was relieved for matters of personal conduct,” said Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman.
A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the disciplinary action followed an investigation by the Defense Department inspector general’s office into “allegations of personal misconduct of a sexual nature.”
The official offered no further details of the allegations against Byrnes, who is married.
As head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, Byrnes was in charge of Army training programs, creating war-fighting guidelines and recruiting new soldiers. He oversaw 50,000 people in 33 schools and centers at 16 Army installations.
Byrnes, a New York native who held the post since 2002 and has served in the Army since 1969, was relieved of his duties on Monday, Army spokesman Paul Boyce said. Byrnes commanded a multinational division serving in Bosnia in 1998 and 1999.
Lt. Gen. Anthony Jones has been installed as acting head of the Army Training and Doctrine Command, Boyce said. The Defense Department in April announced that Lt. Gen. William Wallace was nominated to become a four-star general to head the command, but the U.S. Senate has not yet confirmed him to the post.
Boyce said the investigation into Byrnes had been going on for “a couple of months” but could not say whether it began before Wallace was nominated to replace him. Boyce said he knew of no one else who was investigated for possible misconduct along with Byrnes and that any potential further action against Byrnes would be taken by Army officials.
‘NOT BEEN CHARGED’
“He has not been charged with anything,” Boyce said, adding that Byrnes already had been expected to retire from the military at the time of the investigation.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declined to offer an opinion on the action taken against Byrnes.
“It’s a matter that just came up today to my knowledge. And it’s something that’s being handled in the proper channels. And it’s not something that it would be appropriate for me to get involved with,” Rumsfeld told a briefing.
Cases in which four-star U.S. military officers are relieved of their duties are extremely unusual, and the Army was not able to cite another recent example within that branch of the military.
In 1995, Navy Adm. Richard Macke was replaced as the head of U.S. Pacific Command after making an offensive remark about the rape of a 12-year-old Japanese girl, suggesting to reporters that Marines charged in the case would have been better off spending their money on a prostitute.
In 1990, the Pentagon relieved Gen. Michael Dugan as Air Force chief of staff after he spoke openly about his opinions on American war plans against Iraq ahead of the Gulf War.