Violations by Military Recruiters Up Sharply

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The number of alleged and substantiated violations by U.S. military recruiters increased by more than 50 percent in one year, a rise that may reflect growing pressure to meet wartime recruiting goals, according to a Government Accountability Office report released yesterday.

Allegations of wrongdoing by military recruitment personnel rose from 4,400 cases in fiscal 2004 to 6,600 cases in fiscal 2005, with substantiated cases increasing from 400 to almost 630, according to the report. The number of cases found to be criminal violations more than doubled, from 33 to 68.

The increase in violations was noted despite a significant decline in the number of people who joined the military. The number of new recruits fell from 250,000 in fiscal 2004 to 215,000 in fiscal 2005, even as recruiting efforts were significantly boosted, according to the GAO report.

The report noted that part of the increase in violations could be due to the Air Force's improved ability to track wrongdoing. But GAO officials concluded that because the Defense Department does not have an appropriate method of tracking violations across all the services, the total is likely to be higher.

"The department . . . is not in a sound position to assure Congress and the general public that it knows the full extent to which recruiter irregularities are occurring," the report says.

Citing internal Defense Department data, the GAO found that about 20 percent of active-duty recruiters believe that irregularities -- such as coercion, concealing information that would disqualify a candidate and falsifying documents, among others -- occur frequently. A majority of recruiters also reported dissatisfaction with their jobs.

The data indicate that irregularities increase around the time of monthly quota deadlines, according to the report.

The recruiting effort has become more difficult, especially for the Army, because new recruits know that they are likely to be deployed in support of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Army officials have said that parents, coaches and advisers -- the "influencers" of recruits -- are less likely to recommend that young men and women join the military because of the wars. The low unemployment rate also means that young people have other options.

To avoid missing its annual goal, as it did last year, the Army deployed more recruiters and increased signing incentives this year, meeting its elevated monthly goals through last month.

Responding to the report, Defense officials wrote that they believe there needs to be a more centralized way of tracking recruitment violations to better assess how to prevent them.

"We certainly agree with the GAO statement that even one incident of recruiter wrongdoing can erode public confidence in DoD's recruiting process," Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, wrote in a letter dated July 24.

Reps. Victor F. Snyder (D-Ark.) and Fortney "Pete" Stark (D-Calif.), who released the report, said yesterday in a joint statement that the Defense Department needs to develop a better way of monitoring violations.

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