Democratic lawmakers are demanding an outside investigation into multiple allegations of sexual abuse in the Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps, to protect high schoolers from “exploitative practices and predatory instructors.”

The lawmakers asked the Government Accountability Office to launch a probe to help Congress determine whether to scale back or shutter the JROTC program altogether.

“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,” wrote the group, which included Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee chairwoman Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and House Oversight Committee ranking member Jamie Raskin, D-Md.

The move further clouds the long-term stability of the program, viewed by military leaders as a key recruiting and outreach tool. There are JROTC programs a more than 3,500 U.S. high schools, reaching more than 500,000 students.

The lawmakers’ request comes a few months after Defense Department leaders acknowledged that sexual abuse and harassment of high school students has been a significant problem in the program. Between 2017 and 2022, at least 58 such cases occurred.

At least 46 instructors have been decertified over the last five years because of sexual abuse allegations. Two other instructors died by suicide before their cases could be settled.

GAO officials have not yet responded to the request, but typically pursue investigations in response to lawmaker inquiries. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have previously called on the Pentagon to investigate the issue.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have been focused on recruiting and retention issues since the military services last year struggled or failed to meet recruiting goals. On May 2, Army leaders told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee that they believe they will miss their recruiting goals again this year.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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