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WASHINGTON — Top Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday called for hearings into recruiter misconduct, calling reports of sexual assault against military recruits “unacceptable.”

Ranking member Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., and fellow committee member Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., sent a letter to Republican leaders to address the recruiting scandals in a public forum before Congress adjourns for the November elections because of the importance of the issue.

“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 said. “It is our responsibility … to ensure that the Department takes the necessary steps to prevent such inappropriate behavior.”

But Republican leaders on the House Armed Services Committee said they are looking into addressing the problem through language to be inserted in the upcoming 2007 defense budget bill, and have no immediate plans for such a hearing.

Last month, The Associated Press reported that they found more than 80 cases in 2005 where recruiters were either disciplined, dismissed or imprisoned for sexual misconduct with recruits.

The news service’s six-month investigation also found the Army has seen 722 cases of recruiters accused of rape and sexual assault since 1996.

Also last month, a Report by the Government Accountability Office, Congress’ watchdog agency, found that allegations of recruiter misconduct rose by 50 percent from 2004 to 2005, and criminal violations by recruiters jumped from 30 cases to 70 cases over the same time frame.

The committee has dealt with the issue of sexual assault among servicemembers during several public hearings in the past.

“Just as we sent a signal that such behavior will not be tolerated within the ranks, 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 said.

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