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John Hyten

WASHINGTON — Gen. John Hyten has been confirmed as the second-highest officer in the U.S. military.

The Senate voted 75-22 Thursday to elevate Hyten to vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He received that overwhelming, bipartisan approval despite allegations of sexual misconduct, allegations that Hyten has denied.

Sens. Deb Fischer and Ben Sasse, both Nebraska Republicans, voted for Hyten, who is currently head of U.S. Strategic Command.

“My working relationship with him has been really amazing,” Fischer told The World-Herald just before the vote. “He’s the guy for the job just because of his background with nukes, missile defense, with space, cyber. And that’s what the vice chair really focuses on.”

Hyten is not expected to assume his new duties until a replacement at StratCom has been selected. The Trump administration has not said who that will be.

After Hyten’s nomination to the vice chairman position was announced, Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser came forward with accusations that he made a series of unwanted advances toward her and sexually assaulted her.

Spletstoser was a top aide to Hyten and received positive reviews before later being forced out amid claims she was responsible for creating a toxic work environment.

Hyten flatly denied her accusations, and an Air Force investigation found insufficient evidence for a finding of misconduct.

Spletstoser has stood by her allegations and criticized that investigation as one-sided.

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She released a written statement through a spokesman that said her experience demonstrates the military is poorly equipped to handle sexual assault.

“This has been a difficult and painful process but I am grateful for all the support I have received,” she said in the statement. “General Hyten’s confirmation should not be a popularity contest; this process should be about integrity, facts, and the truth. And it should be part of a broader conversation about reforming the process for adjudicating military sexual assault.”

Iowa’s two GOP senators split on Thursday’s vote — Sen. Chuck Grassley supported the nomination and Sen. Joni Ernst was opposed.

Ernst was the only Republican to vote against the nomination. She also voted against the nomination at the committee level. During Hyten’s confirmation hearing, Ernst pressed him on his handling of that toxic leadership situation.

She has said it left her with concerns about his judgment and abilities.

But Hyten has had many defenders, including Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla. The chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee praised Hyten as the right person for the position.

“Gen. Hyten has developed a reputation of discipline, integrity and honor,” Inhofe said on the Senate floor before the vote. “For the past two and a half years he has led StratCom, where he demonstrated shrewd, decisive understanding of our national security objectives.”

Inhofe said the committee takes sexual assault allegations seriously and carefully reviewed the ones against Hyten.

“We can’t stop a nomination from going forward on unproven allegations, especially ones we examined with the utmost of care and closest scrutiny and determined not to have merit,” Inhofe said.

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Reporter - Politics/Washington D.C.

Joseph Morton is The World-Herald Washington Bureau Chief. Morton joined The World-Herald in 1999 and has been reporting from Washington for the newspaper since 2006. Follow him on Twitter @MortonOWH. Email:joseph.morton@owh.com

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