USA Today reports:
WASHINGTON — The Army has stripped Maj. Gen. David Haight of three ranks, Army Secretary Eric Fanning said Friday, following revelations contained in documents and interviews of Haight’s decade-long extramarital affair and “swinger lifestyle.
A board of his peers called for Haight to be busted to lieutenant colonel, a demotion that will cost him nearly $43,000 per year in pension pay. Fanning, in an interview, said he had accepted the recommendation after a panel of three officers reviewed Haight’s conduct — and his secret second life — and determined that lieutenant colonel was the last rank in which he had served satisfactorily.
Fanning spent hours discussing the case with other general officers and read the investigative report twice before accepting the recommendation, he said.
“He’s going to be retired as a lieutenant colonel,” Fanning said. “Pretty big drop.”
Haight’s attorney, Army Lt. Col. Sara Root, said Haight deeply regrets the affair but strenuously denies that it affected his service through multiple combat tours.
“He’s 100% devoted to his country,” Root said. “He has sacrificed a lot for his country. He’s not a threat to his country and would never do anything to harm it.”
Haight, a decorated infantry soldier and Army Ranger, had served as the director of operations for U.S. European Command until the spring. An Army investigation determined that he had had an 11-year long affair with Jennifer Armstrong, a government employee, and had misused his government cellphone to stay in contact with her.
The Army reprimanded Haight — effectively ending his career — and hauled him back to Washington. He was placed in a job with few responsibilities while the board determined his rank for retirement. Haight had been allowed to maintain his clearance to view classified material until the day after USA TODAY published the story about his secret life, and had raised questions about his susceptibility to espionage.
Root said Haight had never been targeted by spies and would never divulge national security secrets.
If Haight had been allowed to retire as a two-star general with 30 years of service, he would have been paid about $122,800. Retirement as a lieutenant colonel drops that pension to about $79,800.
This fall saw the Army rocked by scandal and suicide. In October, the Pentagon Inspector General rapped Maj. Gen. Ron Lewis, the one-time top military aide to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, for frequenting strip clubs and paying his tab with a government credit card. USA TODAY revealed that another staff member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army National Guard Brig. Gen. Michael Bobeck, was fired from his post for an affair. Another top commander, Maj. Gen. Wayne Grigsby, who commanded the Army’s 1st Infantry Division, was fired from his post and recalled to Washington. The Army also announced that Maj. Gen. John Rossi had taken his own life just days before he was to pin on his third star.
All of those cases remain under investigation, preventing him from commenting on them, Fanning said.
Haight’s dark life as a philanderer — a violation of military law — and his “swinger lifestyle” came to light in August after USA TODAY obtained the report of an internal investigation and interviewed Armstrong. Haight’s career, studded with achievement and on a trajectory for greater rank, crashed and burned.
Haight met Armstrong while on a combat tour in Iraq and returned home to lead a lifestyle of swapping sexual partners, according to documents and interviews.
The dangerous dalliances put Haight at risk of blackmail and espionage, particularly in his sensitive post in Europe, where Russian military aggression and spying are growing concerns, government officials told USA TODAY.
Root said Haight had never been approached by a foreign agent and would never compromise national security.
“That cuts to the heart for him,” she said.