File photo of General Arthur J. Lichte
The US Air Force is investigating a sexual assault case against a retired high-ranking four-star general who was on active duty at the time of the alleged assault.
An Air Force spokesman said on Friday the service will conduct a thorough investigation of General Arthur J. Lichte, who retired as head of Air Mobility Command in 2009.
“I can tell you that the Air Force takes all allegations of sexual assault or harassment very seriously,” Ryder said in a statement.
“We are committed to upholding the high standards and values of our service and ensuring an environment of dignity and respect, where sexual assault or harassment is not tolerated, and where there is clear accountability placed on all Airmen at every level.”
If the Air Force proceeds with pressing charges, it may become the most significant sexual assault case involving a four-star general in modern US military history.
A report by the US Defense Department released in May said that the military had 6,083 reports of sexual assault last year.
However, the true figures are estimated to be much higher because many cases are not reported due to a fear of retaliation.
Research conducted this year estimated there were about 20,000 sexual assaults in the US military in 2015.
Congress and advocates of sexual-assault victims have pressured the Pentagon for years to improve how it prosecutes sexual-assault cases.
US troops who have reported sexual assaults are 12 times more likely to be retaliated against than to see their attacker convicted of sex crimes, according to a report released last year by Human Rights Watch.