- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 20, 2000

The sexual harassment case of Lt. Gen. Claudia Kennedy illustrates a trend in today's military: A male charged with sexual harassment must prove his innocence or face discipline, military experts and retired officers say.
A female officer was the lead investigator in the Army's probe of Gen. Kennedy's complaint. The officer substantiated the charge against Maj. Gen. Larry G. Smith largely on the premise that the Army's first female three-star general was credible and had no reason to lie.
With that conclusion, the Army ended the 34-year, unblemished career of the married father of two. His personnel file will permanently hold a letter of reprimand after he retires Sept. 1.
Gen. Smith's friends, who declined to be identified for this article, say in interviews they firmly believe the 1996 incident in Gen. Kennedy's open-door Pentagon office was a case of a misunderstanding.
Gen. Smith said he hugged Gen. Kennedy and gave her a light kiss on the cheek as he concluded a visit with his friend and colleague. She charged he grabbed her and forced a kiss.
Gen. Smith submitted a rebuttal of the Army inspector general's report to Gen. John Keane, Army vice chief of staff. Among other points, Gen. Smith argued it defied common sense to think any officer would sexually harass another officer in a Pentagon office with the door open 6 feet away.
Nonetheless, Gen. Keane accepted the IG conclusion. One military source said Gen. Keane worked hard to limit Gen. Smith's penalty to a reprimand and retirement. The source said some civilian officials wanted to bust Gen. Smith in rank, a further humiliation that also would reduce his retirement benefits.
"Should he have kissed a two-star general? Probably not," says a senior retired officer, referring to Gen. Kennedy's rank at the time. "Should it have been handled this way? Absolutely not. She should have handled it herself."
The Army, in a report endorsed by Lt. Gen. Michael W. Ackerman, the IG, concluded Gen. Kennedy had no motive to tarnish her stellar 31-year career by filing a false report. If that were her design, the report said, she could have filed the report back in 1996.
Gen. Kennedy brought up the matter three years later only after learning the Army had tapped Gen. Smith as its next deputy inspector general, a job that would have him overseeing sexual harassment charges, among other misconduct cases.
Military experts say such "he said, she said" standoffs are more common today than 10 years ago as the four branches urge personnel to report harassment. The experts contend men are at an immediate disadvantage. In fact, an official Army health guide issued to commanders states that sexual harassment complaints usually are true.
"In a practical sense, it seems to me that men are guilty until proven innocent and it was definitely a career wrecker just to have an accusation leveled against them," says Jim Renne, who served as legal counsel to a 1999 congressional commission on issues of sex and the military.
"The military spends far too much precious resources and time on sexual harassment prevention when they ignore the underlying policy mistake," Mr. Renne says. "This may be politically incorrect, but it's true: Men and woman are very different biologically, mentally and emotionally. Mixing them in military units may be workable with considerable effort but not optimal."
In private life, a charge of sexual harassment in the office can be handled privately. But in the military, the same incident is potentially a criminal matter. Commanders may charge a person under the catchall "conduct unbecoming an officer," or file counts of indecent assault.
Military sources say that in today's "zero tolerance" climate, commanders are reluctant to handle cases themselves. They fear that anything short of a full-blown investigation could ruin their careers on grounds they were insensitive to the woman's complaint or soft on harassment, according to two senior retired officers.
"Sexual harassment or sexual misconduct have become the foremost of crimes in terms of attention by the command," says lawyer Charles Gittins, who has defended high-profile military personnel. "Commanders are afraid to resolve weak allegations by labeling them unfounded because they are likely to gain the attention of the feminist lobby and pro-feminist media… . It has had a weakening effect on the entire structure of command authority and the chain of command."
The Army and Gen. Kennedy, who retires next month after serving as the service's top intelligence officer, have plenty of defenders regarding how they handled the sensitive matter. None is more supportive than Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, New York Democrat.
"They went through the procedure," Mrs. Maloney says. "The IG issued a report, and it found that Gen. Kennedy's credibility was an important factor, and apparently there were people who reliably verified her story. I have talked to Gen. Kennedy, and I truly believe her intention was to protect the Army. She did not make any complaint until he was appointed to be an assistant IG to oversee harassment cases, which was very troubling to her. I think any three-star general has a great deal of credibility."
A military source says Gen. Kennedy, after the October 1996 meeting, told one or more staffers not to let Gen. Smith back in her office.
"This was not a quick decision," the congresswoman says. "It was a very measured decision. It was a thorough investigation. I think she's very dedicated to the military. And what really angered me the most are the anonymous sources who said she made them angry because she reported it. The only person who made the military look bad was Gen. Smith."
Anita Blair, a lawyer who was chairman of the 1999 congressional commission, says Gen. Smith should have received the benefit of a doubt.
"I think that given all the equities, the proper thing to have done is say: 'Well, time has passed here. It's he said, she said. We can't make a determination.' I think on the whole, the thing should have gone the other way.
"What must a private think if a general with a sterling career can't get the benefit of the doubt," adds Mrs. Blair, president of the Independent Women's Forum, a group that counters liberal feminism. "How on earth is any private or sergeant or young lieutenant going to get the benefit of the doubt? It must be a horrible message to men in the ranks."
The Army, perhaps more than the other three services, urges soldiers to report sexual harassment. The policy is aimed at heading off a repeat of well-publicized sex scandals at Aberdeen Proving Ground and other training bases. In fact, Gen. Kennedy was the service's leading proponent of immediately reporting harassment.

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