Senators Warren, Hirono, Lawmakers Call for GAO Review of JROTC Program Following Pervasive Reports of Sexual Abuse and Misconduct
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren joined Senator Mazie K. 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.), in sending a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) urging the agency to conduct a comprehensive review of federal agencies and military services tasked with oversight of the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps (JROTC) program. The letter was sent following disturbing reports of students being forced to join the JROTC program and widespread patterns of sexual misconduct by instructors in the program.
“The overwhelming majority of JROTC instructors are honorable and trustworthy; they have served their nation with distinction—and continue to do so by teaching and mentoring our nation’s next generation of military officers,” wrote the lawmakers. “However, any incident of sexual abuse or harassment is one too many and betrays the faith and trust that JROTC cadets and their families have placed in the U.S. military.”
In July of last year, a New York Times investigation found that at least 33 JROTC instructors have been charged in criminal cases involving 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. In September, Senators Warren, Gillibrand, Hirono, and Blumenthal opened an investigation into the JROTC program’s failure to protect students from sexual misconduct. DOD reported to the Senators there had been 114 allegations of violence, including sexual abuse or harassment in the JROTC program over the past decade and conceded “there’s very little oversight” of these programs overall.
The New York Times also reported 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 the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Education (ED) are conducting appropriate oversight of JROTC. These mandatory JROTC enrollments also appeared to be disproportionately affecting communities of color and already vulnerable students from low-income backgrounds. ED later confirmed that there is no process in place to receive reports of sexual misconduct from DOD, while DOD officials conceded “there’s very little oversight” of these programs overall and that there is no survey or public reporting on incidents of sexual assault.
“It is incumbent upon us as Members of Congress to conduct oversight and, as appropriate, consider whether additional legislation may be needed to protect JROTC cadets from sexual abuse and harassment while ensuring that DOD and the military services conduct adequate oversight and maintain the integrity of JROTC,” wrote the lawmakers.
In their letter, the lawmakers requested that GAO conduct an evaluation to review the extent to which DOD, the military services, and ED:
- Collect and maintain data on incidents of sexual or other misconduct involving JROTC instructors;
- Established policies to vet and periodically review the qualifications, credentials, and suitability of JROTC instructors;
- Established policies to prevent and respond to allegations of sexual misconduct within JROTC; and
- Established mechanisms or processes to ensure appropriate oversight of the military services’ respective JROTC programs.
In addition to Senators Warren and Hirono, the letter was also signed by Representatives Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), Robert Garcia (D-Calif.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), Sylvia Garcia (D-Texas), and Chrissy M. Houlahan (D-Pa.).
- 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 disturbing reports of widespread patterns of sexual misconduct by instructors in the program.
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