General Kevin P. Byrnes, 4-Star TRADOC Commander, Relieved of Duty
General Kevin P. Byrnes, who headed TRADOC, has been relieved of command, reportedly because of an extra-marital affair not involving someone in the military.
4-Star General Relieved of Duty (WaPo, A1)
In a rare move, the Army relieved a four-star general of his command amid allegations that he had an extramarital affair with a civilian, Army officials said yesterday. Gen. Kevin P. Byrnes, 55, led the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command at Fort Monroe, Va., where he supervised the recruitment and academic programs at 33 Army schools, from basic training to the war colleges. Byrnes, who several military sources said had a previously unblemished record, was set to retire in November after 36 years of service.
The Army released few details about the decision to relieve one of its 11 four-star generals, with spokesmen saying only that Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army’s chief of staff, relieved Byrnes of his command on Monday as the result of an investigation by the Defense Department’s inspector general. A spokesman said Army officials could find no case of another four-star general being relieved of duty in modern times.
Several defense sources familiar with the case, speaking anonymously because the investigation is not complete, said Byrnes is accused of having an “inappropriate relationship,” and some described him as being involved in an extramarital affair. Byrnes, reached by telephone at his home yesterday, declined to comment. His defense attorney, Lt. Col. David H. Robertson, said the allegation against Byrnes involves an affair with a private citizen. Byrnes has been separated from his wife since May 2004; their divorce was finalized on Monday, coincidentally the same day he was relieved of command, Robertson said. “The allegation against him does not involve a relationship with anyone within the military or even the federal government,” Robertson said, emphasizing that the allegations do not involve more than one relationship. “It does not involve anyone on active duty or a civilian in the Department of Defense.”
Having an extramarital affair can be deemed adultery and a violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. But such cases rarely go to court-martial and usually end in administrative punishment such as a letter of reprimand, according to military lawyers. Relieving a general of his command amid such allegations is extremely unusual, especially given that he was about to retire.
The disciplinary action struck some military experts as severe, given Byrnes’s reputation as a popular general who has been ushering in systemic changes in Army doctrine and training. A Vietnam War veteran who served as the commanding general of the 1st Cavalry Division and commanded multinational troops in Bosnia, Byrnes served as director of the Army staff just before taking over at Fort Monroe in 2002.
Byrnes’s case comes after two prominent Air Force generals were accused publicly of sexually harassing subordinates, and as the Defense Department is restructuring its sexual harassment policies. “It must have been the sort of thing where they felt they had no choice, given the recent history of personnel scandals in the Army,” said Michael E. O’Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution. “They’re trying to make it clear that four-stars don’t get special treatment. They must feel they have a need to send that message.”
I can’t imagine that a separated man having a consensual relationship with someone not under his command would be cause for relief, let alone at the 4-star level. I suspect something else is going on here, although I have no idea what.
One possibility–and this is pure speculation–is that the relationship in question was not with a woman. I note that his attorney’s language was gender neutral as was the reporter’s.
Update (0732): I was wondering how a 55-year-old man had 36 years of service, so checked his TRADOC biography:
General Byrnes assumed the duties of Commander, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command, on November 7, 2002, after serving as the Director, Army Staff.
General Byrnes, a native of New York, New York, was commissioned through the Officer Candidate School program in 1969. He was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Park College in 1975, and a Master of Arts in Management from Webster University in 1985.
Prior to assuming his current duties, he served as Director, Army Staff, the Deputy Chief of Staff for Programs and as the Assistant Vice Chief of Staff. General ByrnesÃ¢€™ other key assignments include: Commanding General, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas; while deployed in that capacity, he simultaneously served as the Commanding General of the Multinational Division (North) in Tuzla, Bosnia, from October 1998 to August 1999; Director, Force Programs, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Plans, Washington, D.C.; Assistant Division Commander (Maneuver), 1st Cavalry Division; Commanding General, Joint Task Force Six, Fort Bliss, Texas; Commander, 1st Cavalry Division Artillery, and later Chief of Staff, 1st Cavalry Division; Director of Political and Economic Studies and Director of the Strategic Outreach Initiative for the United States Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania; Commander, 4th Battalion, 3rd Field Artillery in 2nd Armored Division (Forward) in Germany; and Commander, Battery C, 1st Battalion, 39th Field Artillery, Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His overseas tours include Vietnam, Germany and Bosnia.
Rising to 4-star rank as a mustang is even more unusual than doing it as an Academy or ROTC grad.
Update (0926): Don Sensing also finds this one puzzling but points out that, almost by definition, we don’t have much to go on as to what constitutes “unusual” at the 4-star level:
[F]our-star generals are few in the services and are appointed very carefully by the president both to that rank and to their jobs. ThereÃ¢€™s no doubt that before Gen. Schoomaker relived Byrnes he and the secretary of the Army both had lengthy conversations with each other and with President Bush. And there is also no doubt that the president approved the relief in advance because thereÃ¢€™s no chance that Gen. Schoomaker or the Army secretary did the deed and then informed the commander in chief.
In fact, I wouldnÃ¢€™t be surprised at all to learn that President Bush actually ordered the relief, although I donÃ¢€™t think weÃ¢€™ll ever learn that, if so.
Relief for cause, btw, is a career ender at any rank, although for Gen. Byrnes it has no practical effect other than to compel him to end his career under a dark cloud. But his retired pay and other privileges wonÃ¢€™t be affected; they could only be affected by judicial action resulting from a court-martial.
True enough although my understanding is that no one has a “permanent” rank above the two-star level and that retiring with three or four stars requires, ordinarily perfunctory, approval by the Senate. If there is actually something going on here that would make relief from command reasonable, then it would not be unthinkable that Byrnes would retire as a major general. Paywise, this would have no impact but it would certainly be a big blow in pomp and circumstance.
Update (1813): Michael Demmons has it “on good authority” that the Byrnes firing is not for a violation of “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Update (1922): His lawyer is now referring to the target of the affair as “a woman.” Unfortunately, Byrnes’ troubles may not be over:
The U.S. Army said on Wednesday that further discipline was possible against a four-star general relieved of his command due to what his lawyer called “a consensual, adult relationship” outside of marriage. […] “The allegation against Gen. Byrnes involves a consensual, adult relationship with a woman who is not in the military, nor is a civilian employee of the military or the federal government,” Lt. Col. David Robertson, the military lawyer for Byrnes, said by e-mail. Robertson added that Byrnes, 52, and his wife separated in May 2004 and remained separated until their divorce became final on Monday, the same day that he was relieved of his command.
Army officials said additional disciplinary action such as administrative punishment that could reduce retirement benefits was possible against Byrnes, but offered no timetable.