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thedrifter
09-12-06, 03:50 PM
September 12, 2006
Top democrats call for recruiter misconduct hearings

By Rick Maze
Staff writer

Two influential Democrats, including the man who would become House Armed Services Committee chairman if Republicans lose control of the House in the November elections, want hearings on recruiter misconduct held this year.

Reps. Ike Skelton of Missouri and Vic Snyder of Arkansas, the two committee members calling for the hearings, are concerned that reports about improprieties — including sexual misconduct with prospective recruits — are making it even harder for the services to meet recruiting goals.

Skelton is ranking Democrat on the committee, and is in line to become the chairman — he would succeed Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif. — if Democrats take control of the House after the Nov. 7 elections. Snyder is ranking Democrat on the military personnel subcommittee and is a member of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

They made a request for the hearings in a letter sent Tuesday to Hunter. “While the majority of military recruiters are doing a tremendous job under extremely challenging circumstances, the inappropriate and unbecoming actions of a few have made the job even more difficult,” the letter says.

“How are parents and teachers supposed to trust the Services to take care of their child or student when they read about military recruiters who take advantage of their position to sexually harass or assault a recruit or potential enlistee? Such behavior is simply unacceptable, and it is our responsibility as members of the House Armed Services Committee to ensure that the Department takes the necessary steps to prevent such inappropriate behavior,” Skelton and Snyder said.

A spokesman for Hunter was not available for comment.

The armed services committee held hearings on recruiting problems earlier this year, where defense and service officials proclaimed optimism about meeting recruiting goals. But that was before recent reports about recruiter cheating and misconduct.

Holding additional hearings may not be easy unless done quickly. Republican leaders have announced their intention to adjourn the House by the end of the first week of October to allow time for campaigning for the November elections. Whether Congress returns after the elections for an extended session depends on whether there is major legislation still to complete for the year, and also will be influenced by the outcome of elections.

There have been two damaging reports. In one, the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress, found an increase in recruiter wrongdoing, such as falsifying records, although Pentagon officials said the bulk of the increase is the result of changes in how the Air Force counts recruiter mistakes. This was followed by an August news report from The Associated Press that said 80 recruiters have been punished for sexual misconduct with prospects.

Both reports concern Skelton and Snyder, but the sexual misconduct allegations are particularly worrisome, they said in their letter to Hunter. “Over the past several years, the Committee has held a number of hearings on sexual assaults within the Armed Forces. Just as we sent a signal that such behavior will not be tolerated within the ranks, both in combat and at home stations, it is imperative that we also send a strong message there will be zero tolerance of sexual harassment and assault by military recruiters,” the letter says.

Ellie