June 5, 1997 in Nation/World

Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Had Adulterous Affair

Associated Press

Defense Secretary William Cohen told key lawmakers Wednesday that one of his top candidates to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had an adulterous affair in the 1980s while separated from his wife.

Cohen is asking influential members of Congress whether the incident involving Air Force Gen. Joseph Ralston, now the Joint Chiefs’ vice chairman, might impede his Senate confirmation for the key position as President Clinton’s top military adviser. As chairman, Ralston also would be the top uniformed officer in the military services.

Cohen, in an interview, said he had discussed the matter with Ralston and determined that it would not bar him from being considered as a potential chairman by Clinton.

“I do not feel, after weighing his distinguished 32 years of service and given that it did not occur with someone in the military and does not affect good order and discipline, that it would disqualify him” from being considered, Cohen said.

The defense secretary said he had looked at the military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice and decided that the four-star general apparently had not violated military law.

Cohen said he intends to make a recommendation to Clinton early next week and that he intends to recommend only one individual for the chairman’s job.

The White House had no comment on the disclosure. Spokeswoman Anne Luzzatto said “it is a question that is more appropriately addressed by the Defense Department.

The disclosure follows a recent decision by an Army two-star general to retire in light of his acknowledgment that he conducted an affair with a civilian woman while he was separated from his wife.

Army Maj. Gen. John E. Longhouser decided to retire after an anonymous tip of his affair to an Army sex-abuse hot line. In his post, Longhauser was in charge of an Army base that has been the site of recent sexual misconduct court martials involving drill sergeants and their female trainees.

In Longhouser’s case, Cohen had said he thought retirement was appropriate because of the situation at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland.

Cohen said that in his discussions with lawmakers, “many of them” believe that the military has gone too far in the enforcement of its ban on adultery.

© Copyright 1997 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Thoughts and opinions on this story? Click here to comment >>

Get stories like this in a free daily email