By Barbara Starr
Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey has privately disciplined one of his top generals, who has been investigated by the Army for sending an inappropriate e-mail about a female member of Congress, CNN has learned.
Two senior U.S. military officials said Brig. Gen. Martin P. Schweitzer was ordered by Dempsey to no longer participate in weekly briefings to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel about the movement of troops around the world.
The Pentagon has been under scrutiny for several lapses in ethical behavior among top generals and in the ranks. Hagel has publicly made ethics a top priority.
Army officials said Schweitzer was investigated by the Army inspector general for an e-mail he apparently sent while serving as a colonel with the 82nd Airborne Division.
He had met with Rep. Renee Ellmers, a North Carolina Republican, and then allegedly sent an e-mail to other Army personnel referring to her as "smoking hot" and referencing sexual acts.
Army officials said he was "counseled," but was then promoted to brigadier general. The Army now has his promotion to two-star general on hold before forwarding it to the Senate for consideration.
One official said Dempsey took the action about two or three weeks ago "very deliberately" to cut the general's access to the secretary of defense, in part because of a growing furor inside the ranks about ethical lapses.
The official also acknowledged that Dempsey took the action just as senior Pentagon officials became aware that the Washington Post was preparing to publish an article on January 26 about several senior officers under investigation for misconduct, including Schweitzer.
It's an extraordinary action to take because Schweitzer, as deputy director of regional operations for the Joint Chiefs, oversees a highly classified briefing about information presented to Hagel weekly.
It's one of the most critical briefings at the Pentagon because the secretary of defense is asked to sign each military order to send troops to any locations overseas.
Both officials declined to be identified but have direct knowledge of the action. One of the officials spoke directly to Schweitzer on Thursday to confirm details.
At the time of the inspector general investigation, the Army said Schweitzer apologized in a statement that said in part "my comments were a terrible attempt at humor."
He declined further comment to CNN through a military spokesman.