May 16, 2023

At the Request of Senators Warren, Hirono, and Representatives Raskin, Houlahan, GAO to Review Oversight of JROTC Program Following Reports of Sexual Abuse and Misconduct

GAO Response (PDF)

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, along with Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), and Chrissy M. Houlahan (D-Pa.), applauded the Government Accountability Office (GAO) for launching a review of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program. Following disturbing reports of sexual misconduct by instructors, the lawmakers wrote to the GAO on May 2, requesting that the agency conduct a comprehensive review into the program’s oversight.

In September, Senators Warren, Gillibrand, Hirono, and Blumenthal opened an investigation into the JROTC program’s failure to protect students from sexual misconduct. A New York Times investigation found that “dozens of schools have made the program mandatory or steered more than 75 percent of students in a single grade into the classes,” raising major questions about whether DoD and ED are conducting appropriate oversight of JROTC. These mandatory JROTC enrollments appear to be  disproportionately affecting communities of color and already vulnerable students from low-income backgrounds.

“The JROTC program is meant to show high school students the best of what the military has to offer, not be a place where young people have to fear harassment or assault from their instructors,” said Senator Elizabeth Warren. “I’m glad the GAO has decided to open this review and look forward to their recommendations to protect the safety of students in the program.”

“The more than 500,000 students participating in JROTC programs across the country should be safe and protected in their programs,” said Senator Mazie Hirono. “Reports of abuse, mistreatment, and compulsory enrollment are deeply disturbing and demand further investigation. I am glad that the GAO will be conducting a comprehensive review into the JROTC program, so that students and their families can have faith in the JROTC program and its instructors. I will continue working to ensure JROTC students are safe in their programs and that anyone involved in misconduct is held accountable.”

“In the wake of troubling reports highlighting instances of sexual misconduct by instructors, it is imperative that we prioritize the safety and well-being of our young cadets,” said Representative Robert Garcia. “This step by the GAO to initiate a comprehensive review of the program's oversight demonstrates its commitment to ensuring accountability and transparency within our educational institutions and assures the public that our government agencies are responsive and responsible.”

“The JROTC program is instrumental in developing our young men and women who are interested in dedicating their lives to the U.S. military or public service,” said Representative Stephen Lynch. “It is crucial we honor their commitment by ensuring that they are being educated in a military culture and environment that prioritizes their well-being and is reflective of their service on behalf of our nation. I am pleased to hear the GAO has agreed to open a review into the JROTC and I am hopeful it will provide meaningful oversight and accountability to better protect our cadets.”

“Today is an important first step for the future of our military. Sexual abuse, harassment, and misconduct of any kind will never be tolerated,” said Representative Sylvia Garcia. “There is still much work to be done to end the exploitative practices and predatory instructors in the JROTC. I am looking forward to the work ahead and doing everything we can to protect our young people.”

“It is welcomed news that GAO swiftly took up the charge of reviewing the JROTC program and any allegations of sexual misconduct by instructors,” said Representative Chrissy Houlahan. “Our next generation deserves to feel safe – especially in our schools – and I look forward to working with my colleagues in a bicameral fashion to ensure that students enrolled in JROTC receive only the best of our nation’s values of service and civic responsibility.”

The same reporting also found that at least 33 JROTC instructors have been charged in criminal cases involving sexual misconduct. Their analysis of arrest information for three of the country’s largest high school districts found that “the J.R.O.T.C. program has recorded one arrest for every 232 instructor positions … 68 percent higher than the next highest case rate” of teacher-student sexual misconduct. Across the country, there are numerous cases of JROTC instructors who were criminally charged with sexual misconduct and had been the subject of complaints from students in the past.

As Chair of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Warren has led extensive efforts to hold the Department of Defense and the Department of Education accountable for their management of the JROTC program.

  • On March 15, 2023, chairing her first hearing of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) highlighted the importance of addressing existing failures in the Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC).
  • In February 2023, Senators Warren, Hirono, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), sent a letter to the Department of Defense (DoD) and the Department of Education (ED) amid reports of students being forced to join the JROTC program.
  • On September 23, 2022, during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Warren questioned top DoD personnel officials on disturbing reports of widespread patterns of sexual misconduct by instructors in the JROTC program, where they admitted DoD’s lack of adequate oversight to prevent sexual misconduct by instructors and ensure the safety of students.
  • On September 21, 2022, Senator Warren, along with Senators Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Hirono (D-Hawaii), opened an investigation into the JROTC program, following  reports of widespread patterns of sexual misconduct by instructors in the program.