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Defense & National Security — Congress wants answers on Junior ROTC programs

The Hill logo The Hill 8/16/2022 Ellen Mitchell
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U.S. lawmakers have started a review into the military’s Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (JROTC) programs following reports last month alleging that dozens of teenage girls were abused by their instructors. 

We’ll share what’s come to light on the program and what lawmakers are asking for. Plus: Democrats’ new tactic to try to get the Department of Homeland Security to provide documents related to its investigation into missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 6, 2021, and details on the Air Force’s most recent ballistic missile test launch. 

This is Defense & National Security, your nightly guide to the latest developments at the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill and beyond. For The Hill, I’m Ellen Mitchell. Subscribe here.

Congress reviewing sexual misconduct allegations

In a letter sent on Monday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the service secretaries, lawmakers asked for information on how the Pentagon conducts oversight of its JROTC programs to make sure leaders, instructors and administrators can’t abuse the cadets under their supervision.

“Every incident of abuse or harassment committed by a JROTC instructor against a cadet is completely unacceptable and represents an abject betrayal of the trust and faith these young men and women placed in the U.S. Military, its culture, and its values,” wrote House Committee on Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y), and Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), chairman of the panel’s subcommittee on national security. 

A major investigationThe New York Times last month released a sprawling investigative report that found dozens of retired service members who became leaders in JROTC programs targeted and sexually abused or harassed underage girls.

Over a five-year period, the Times found at least 33 such instructors who were criminally charged with sexual misconduct involving students, as well as numerous others who were accused of misconduct but never charged.

Limited oversight: But the JROTC programs — which for more than a century have provided American students with leadership training in about 3,500 high schools nationwide — have little oversight and minimal training for their instructors.  

What’s more, many states don’t require the instructors to have a college degree or teaching certificate, and schools are tasked with the burden of monitoring instructors and investigating complaints, according to the Times.   

The lawmakers’ requests: “While all JROTC instructors are required to complete a DOD [Department of Defense] background investigation and be certified by state or local education authorities, we remain concerned that DOD and the military services lack an effective means to monitor the actions of JROTC instructors and ensure the safety and well-being of cadets,” the lawmakers wrote. “Without sufficient oversight mechanisms in place, inappropriate behavior may continue undetected.”  

The lawmakers also asked the Department of Defense to give the committee’s staff a briefing by the end of the month on how it conducts oversight of its JROTC programs and the instructors. 

Read the full story here 

Dems threaten to force DHS watchdog to cooperate

Two top House Democrats are slamming the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) over his refusal to provide documents to House committees related to his investigation into missing Secret Service texts from Jan. 6, 2021.  

Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chair of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a letter on Tuesday to DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari that he has refused to produce documents related to their probe into his office’s handling of the investigations. 

‘Alternate measures’: They said if Cuffari continues to refuse to cooperate, they will need to consider “alternate measures” to ensure his compliance.  

Earlier: The letter follows one that Cuffari sent last week in response to two previous requests from Maloney and Thompson that he provide additional information about the office’s Jan. 6 investigations and that he step aside from the probe. Cuffari’s letter was made public on Tuesday.  

In his letter, Cuffari said the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has informed Congress about multiple access issues that his office has experienced with the department since last year. He said he and his team briefed Thompson, who also serves as the chair of the House select committee investigating the Capitol insurrection, on July 15 about the issues the office has had in investigating Jan. 6. 

Hand it over: Maloney and Thompson said in their letter Tuesday that they have written to Cuffari on three occasions since May to request documents and information related to his conduct as inspector general. The first one in May involved allegations that his office censored findings of domestic abuse and sexual harassment by DHS employees.  

But the most recent controversy facing DHS and the OIG is the revelation last month that text messages that Secret Service agents sent on Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, were deleted apparently during a device replacement program. The nonprofit Project on Government Oversight obtained a document late last month showing that text messages from former acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf and his deputy, Ken Cuccinelli, sent in the days surrounding Jan. 6 were also missing. 

Lawmakers have raised questions about why Cuffari did not notify Congress, and specifically relevant committees investigating the insurrection, sooner. 

Read the full story here 

Air Force tests ICBM after delay over China tensions

The Air Force on Tuesday said it had successfully tested an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nearly two weeks after postponing the launch amid increased tensions with China over Taiwan.  

The details: The unarmed Minuteman III, which is capable of holding a nuclear payload, was launched at 12:49 a.m. Pacific Time from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., with its reentry vehicle landing roughly 4,200 miles away near the Marshall Islands, according to a statement from Air Force Global Strike Command.  

The statement said the test demonstrated U.S. readiness and reliability as well as the “expertise of our strategic weapons maintenance personnel and of our missile crews who maintain an unwavering vigilance to defend the homeland.” 

‘Routine and periodic’: The Air Force also stressed that the launch was part of routine and periodic activities and “not the result of current world events,” with such tests occurring more than 300 times before.   

An earlier delay: The Pentagon in early August held off for a second time a planned ICBM test launch after China held live fire exercises in the Taiwan Strait in response to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to the island.  

Beijing launched the war games as a message to Washington, which has pursued strategic ambiguity toward Taiwan and is committed to aiding the independently governed island in defending itself against China.   

China, however, considers Taiwan part of its territory and has repeatedly refused to rule out using force to bring it under control of the mainland. 

 

Read that story here 

ON TAP FOR TOMORROW

  • The Institute for Defense and Government Advancement will hold Day 1 of its “Counter Unmanned Aerial Systems Summit,” at 8:50 a.m.  
  • The Hudson Institute will host a discussion on “From Fist Bumps to Missile Fire: One Month since President Biden’s Middle East Trip,” at 10 a.m.  
  • The National Council of Resistance of Iran will hold a conference on “Tehran’s nuclear agenda on the 20th anniversary of Natanz revelation,” with former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.); former White House national security adviser John Bolton; and former Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, among others, at 10:30 a.m.

WHAT WE’RE READING

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

That’s it for today! Check out The Hill’s Defense and National Security pages for the latest coverage. See you tomorrow!

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