Until last week, Lt. Gen. Ronald F. Lewis served as senior military assistant to Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, wielding influence and control over military policy and administration. Until last week, Lewis was privy to some of the most classified documents transmitted through government agents. Until last week, Lewis played a major role in the planning and executing of U.S. military operations worldwide.
Then, last week, in a rather public manner, Lewis was abruptly fired.
Carter announced his choice to dismiss Lewis last Thursday following "allegations of misconduct." While Carter himself provided no further details to clarify the potentially career-ending scandal, military officials have since alluded to Lewis' involvement in an "improper relationship." As the military legal code criminalizes extramarital affairs, such a misstep could be catastrophic for Lewis's military career.
The dismissal came as a shock to many – especially those who were familiar with Carter and Lewis' close working relationship to one another. In between Lewis' tours in Afghanistan, for example, Lewis served as a military aide for Carter in two separate capacities. Since then, the two have remained noticeably close over the years, so much so that it was no surprise when Lewis was promoted to be Carter's top military aide and right-hand man.
Historically, the role of Senior Military Assistant to the Secretary of Defense has been a one-star position – relatively unknown in Washington. After former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld converted the job to a three-star position, however, the role has since become a springboard of sorts, catapulting officers to high-ranking military jobs.
Indeed, but for last week's dismissal, Lewis was on track to run one of the military's combatant commands or serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Now, however, Lewis' future is unclear; until further notice, he will remain in the Army pending an investigation carried out by the Pentagon's inspector general.