The Army’s chief of public affairs is retiring after an inspector general investigation into allegations stemming from a command climate survey in which 97% of respondents reported experiencing “workplace hostility,” Army Times has learned.
An Army spokesperson, speaking on background to offer additional detail about administrative actions, confirmed that Brig. Gen. Amy Johnston will soon leave the Army.
“The Department of the Army Inspector General investigation into BG Amy Johnston has concluded and appropriate administrative action was taken,” the spokesperson said. “She is in transition status preparing for her approved retirement.”
The investigation “substantiated that BG Johnston’s leadership style violated the standards set forth in Army Regulation 600-100,” the spokesperson explained. Allegations of so-called counterproductive or toxic leadership typically fall under that regulation.
Johnston received a general officer’s memorandum of reprimand.
A GOMOR is an administrative punishment that would have likely prevented further promotion. But as a public affairs officer, Johnston was already likely to retire after completing her tour leading the Office of the Chief of Public Affairs, which began in April 2019.
Why was Johnston investigated?
Army Times first reported the general’s suspension in September 2021. She was suspended after a scathing OCPA command climate survey revealed mass dissatisfaction with workload, work-life balance and unclear expectations on projects.
IG complaints bore out similar allegations.
Respondents also reported a significant level of racial and sexual harassment in the workplace, according slides documenting the command climate survey results, and which were obtained by Army Times.
More than one-in-five survey respondents said they had seen sexual harassment.
More than one-in-four respondents reported racial harassment.
A subsequent Task & Purpose investigation revealed that the allegations against Johnston included frequent outbursts in meetings, as well as the belittling and demeaning of subordinates.
Some Army public affairs officials told Task & Purpose they believed that the difficulties with command climate at OCPA undercut the service’s professed “People First” philosophy — a significant problem for the office tasked with messaging it.
Other officials pointed to the service’s systemic issues with devaluing public affairs, saying they exacerbated issues with Johnston’s leadership.
Military Times Pentagon bureau chief Meghann Myers contributed to this reporting.
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.