Sex Scandals Are Rife in the U.S. Military, Investigation Finds

A soldier salutes the flag during a welcome-home ceremony for troops arriving from Afghanistan on June 15, 2011, to Fort Carson, Colorado. John Moore/Getty

U.S. military investigators have recorded hundreds of serious misconduct cases in the past four years, many of them sex scandals, according to a new investigation.

More than 500 cases among senior military staff, including admirals and generals, have been documented, USA Today reported late Tuesday.

The conclusion of investigations and the punishments handed out are often kept closely guarded, according to the investigation, even in the case of public figures.

The investigation identified five particular cases of senior officers from across the military—the Army, Navy and Air Force. The cases included a "swinging general" who had an 11-year affair but was allowed to retire as a lieutenant colonel.

Another was a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, fired for having an affair but who was allowed to continue residing with a defense contractor. In February, a retired Air Force general was stripped of two of his stars after a probe found that he had pressured a junior officer into a sexual relationship.

"Officer misconduct has and will always be taken seriously by Secretary Mattis and our senior officers, who are expected to serve as exemplary leaders within the armed forces," Pentagon spokeswoman Laura Ochoa told USA Today in a statement.

Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel created an office in 2014 to investigate serious misconduct in the military, but it was closed just two years later, without providing any concrete conclusions about the extent of the problem in the military. It was known as The Office of the Senior Adviser for Military Professionalism.

The military has been embroiled in several public scandals, including some that involve sexual harassment and public shaming. One such example was the revelation in March that hundreds of Marines were sharing naked images of female service members, disclosing their names and ranks, in a private Facebook group with almost 30,000 members.

Earlier this month, the military removed a two-star general from his position for sending flirtatious Facebook messages to the wife of one of the soldiers on his post, calling her a "hottie."

Some top officials have seen their careers end as a result of their behavior. Lieutenant General Ron Lewis, a top adviser to former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, fell from grace after extravagant spending using a government credit card at strip clubs on an official trip.

Former officials have criticized the male-dominated military and its senior officials for behaving like a ruling class, one that cannot be held accountable and that is not fully transparent about sexual harassment or sexual misconduct. Women account for only around 15 percent of the military's workforce of 1.3 million and less than 10 percent of personnel in the Marines.

"They're more nobility than they are just average American citizens," Don Christensen, who retired as a colonel after being the top prosecutor for the U.S. Air Force, told the news site. "They start to feel above the law. They feel like royalty versus an officer dedicated to the country."