Army 4-Star Who Pressured Panel to Help Career of Unfit Officer Suspended, Facing Pentagon Investigation

March 22, 2024
Gen. Charles Hamilton, Army Materiel Command commander

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth suspended one of the service’s top generals Friday after reporting revealed he may have inappropriately intervened in a service assessment panel’s work in an attempt to help the career of a subordinate officer who was deemed unfit for command.

The case of Gen. Charles Hamilton, who oversees Army Materiel Command, was also referred by the Army to the Defense Department inspector general for investigation — a rare move to take against a seasoned four-star general.

“This week, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth became aware of credible allegations Gen. Charles Hamilton, commanding general of Army Materiel Command (AMC), interfered in the Army’s Command Assessment Program (CAP) process last fall,” Col. Randee Farrell, a spokesperson for Wormuth, told in a statement, adding that Hamilton has been suspended pending the outcome of the Pentagon’s and any other “subsequent” investigations.

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Lt. Gen. Chris Mohan, deputy commander of AMC, will serve in Hamilton’s place for the time being.’s investigation found that Hamilton used what one general with direct knowledge of the situation called a “pressure campaign” aimed at influencing the Army Command Assessment Program panel in support of a female lieutenant colonel who was seeking a battalion command post. The assessment process is specifically designed to eliminate outside influence.

Despite Hamilton’s efforts, which included contacting panel members, the assessment process, which is designed to validate whether an officer is fit for command, found the lieutenant colonel unqualified due to ineffective and counterproductive leadership.

However, Hamilton’s subordinate officer was later placed on a selection list for command despite rejection by two assessment panels.

Following’s reporting this week on Hamilton’s actions, she will no longer be a candidate to take command and will have to recompete next year. The lieutenant colonel’s name is being withheld because found no evidence of wrongdoing on her part.

For its investigation, interviewed key Army staff and officials, including general officers, who were directly familiar with the lieutenant colonel’s command assessment panels. Hamilton’s conduct was viewed as so out of line that the director of the assessment panel, Col. Robert O’Brien, penned a memo with a detailed timeline of events, which the publication also reviewed. O’Brien did not return requests for comment.

Hamilton’s lobbying campaign

It started with closed-door meetings between Hamilton and staff with the Army’s Command Assessment Program, or CAP, in Washington, D.C., at the annual Association of the United States Army convention. The event is a massive gathering of the who’s who of the service held every October.

The lieutenant colonel’s first Battalion Commander Assessment Program, or BCAP, panel was held later that month.

BCAP includes a series of assessments of a lieutenant colonel’s command potential, including a physical fitness test, examinations of communications skills, psychological evaluations, and a panel of five randomly selected generals doing a blind interview with the candidate.

The assessment panelists are not supposed to know the candidate’s name and very little about their background. The candidate is also behind a curtain, the idea being that the service wants to take every measure possible to prevent bias. Panelists are also selected just hours before the panel, in an effort to prevent lobbying.

On Oct. 30, the lieutenant colonel had her BCAP assessment panel at Fort Knox, Kentucky. The process was monitored by Hamilton at his request, a move officials explained is technically allowed but bizarre. By a vote of 0-5, the five panel members voted that the lieutenant colonel be uncertified for command, citing “counterproductive leadership.”

Hamilton took issue with the psychologist’s characterization of the lieutenant colonel’s mental state ahead of the panel, arguing it was “too negative.” He demanded a second panel, an unheard-of move that is against the Army’s own rules, which dictate that a failed BCAP candidate has to wait a year for another chance.

O’Brien granted the re-panel “solely based” on Hamilton’s request, according to his own memo. However, the lieutenant colonel was told by Col. Townley Hedrick, Command Assessment Program deputy chief of staff, that she was being re-paneled due to “technical issues.” Hamilton later called Hedrick, thanking him for “playing a part.”

The re-panel was rescheduled for Nov. 1, two days after her first failed assessment

In the lead-up to that panel, Hamilton called at least three of the five panel members, who are intended to be anonymous to avoid outside influence — Maj. Gens. Jeth Rey, Trevor Bredenkamp and Hope Rampy — to discuss the lieutenant colonel, multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation told It’s unclear whether Hamilton called the other two panel members or attempted to make contact.

Throughout the entire day of the second panel, starting in the early morning until 9 p.m., Hamilton sent a barrage of text messages to O’Brien and Hedrick asking about the results, according to O’Brien’s memo. The second panel wrapped up at noon, and the lieutenant colonel was again found unfit for command, this time in a 2-3 vote.

It’s unclear when those results were shared with Hamilton, or if Command Assessment Program staff ever responded to him.

BCAP was supposed to be clean

The news of Hamilton’s attempts to subvert the service’s command selection process roiled the Army from the rank and file to senior staff at the Pentagon, with one senior Army official characterizing Hamilton’s conduct to as a “cartoonish example” of corrupt judgment.

After the investigation of Hamilton, the service says it will review its command assessment process.

“Following the completion of the [inspector general’s] work, the Army will undertake an additional review of CAP itself and the entirety of the command selection process to determine what additional steps may be needed to ensure maximum fairness and integrity in the command selection process,” Farrell added.

Army officials have described to that the service went through a painstakingly detailed process to assure BCAP was about as impenetrable from manipulation as possible.

Most of those officials, including half a dozen senior officers interviewed, contend that BCAP is still a solid way to find officers, but that Hamilton’s conduct revealed weaknesses in the process.

“A perfect hiring process doesn’t exist, but this is the best we have and we have a lot of safeguards here,” one general explained to on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media on the subject. “But this whole event shows we have work to do. I’m still a believer [in BCAP]. I want it to survive, but we certainly need to look at how we can prevent this from happening again.”

BCAP started in 2020 and was largely seen across the force as the most significant improvement to how the Army selects battalion commanders. Posts at that level are among the most consequential in the service, where the Pentagon’s big picture and the management of front-line troops meet.

“We spend more time and more money on selecting a private to be in [75th] Ranger Regiment than we do selecting what I would argue is one of the most consequential leadership positions in the Army, our battalion commanders,” Gen. James McConville, who at the time was the service’s top officer, said during the development of the program.

Meanwhile, generals are rarely disciplined in meaningful ways, let alone publicly. However, Wormuth has fired senior officers for smaller offenses.

Among the most recent four-stars to be relieved was Gen. Kevin Byrnes in 2005. He led the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command, or TRADOC. The New York Times reported at the time that the firing was due to a consensual adulterous affair.

Gen. Stanley McChrystal effectively had a forced resignation in 2010 after a Rolling Stone article painted a picture of the general and his top aides making snide comments about then-Vice President Joe Biden and other top Obama administration officials.

“How senior leaders respond will be very telling,” another general told “If Hamilton is guilty, he should be relieved and retired under grade reduction.”

Related: Army General Pressured Assessment Panel to Help Career of ‘Ineffective’ Officer

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