Naval War College President Reassigned amid Probe into Twister Games, Free Hugs

Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, president, U.S. Naval War College (NWC) addresses the students of the 2018 graduating class during a commencement ceremony held at NWC, June 15, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Jess Lewis)
Rear Adm. Jeffrey A. Harley, president, U.S. Naval War College (NWC) addresses the students of the 2018 graduating class during a commencement ceremony held at NWC, June 15, 2018. (U.S. Navy photo/Jess Lewis)

The president of the Naval War College was reassigned this weekend as the military investigates allegations of misconduct at the school, which prepares future general and flag officers to lead troops.

Rear Adm. Jeffrey Harley, who has overseen the Naval War College since 2016, was reassigned to the director of Navy Staff on Sunday following an Associated Press report about allegations that he emailed students, faculty and staff offering "free hugs" and Twister games in his office.

The inspector general is also investigating claims that he spent funds excessively, kept a margarita machine in his office and abused his hiring authority, the AP reported.

Harley "was administratively reassigned pending the final report of an ongoing Inspector General investigation," according to a Navy news release.

"Lewis M. Duncan, Provost of the Naval War College, has temporarily assumed the duties of the President of the Naval War College," it adds.

The investigation into Harley's behavior was launched 2018 after longtime college employees filed a complaint. They alleged his leadership style was "destroying the college," the AP reported.

Harley countered that in an interview with the wire service, saying his emails about "free hugs" and Twister games merely reflected his leadership style.

Some came to Harley's defense on social media this week following the AP story. Tom Nichols, a national security affairs professor at the war college, called the story "a hit job."

"RADM Harley is cordial and self-effacing, and his emails are often jokes made at his own expense. There's more than a few of us who would have said so -- if we'd been asked," he wrote on Twitter.

About 1,600 U.S. and foreign military officers earn master's degrees at the Naval War College every year. Its 2019 class will graduate Friday, and top Navy leaders are expected to address the class.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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