Army doubled felony waivers for recruits in year of Iraq surge
The Army doubled the number of waivers it issued to allow convicted felons to enlist between 2006 and 2007, while felony waivers issued to Marine recruits increased by nearly 70 percent, according to newly released numbers from the Pentagon.
The House Oversight Committee released the Department of Defense statistics Monday, and requested more explanation for the increase in criminals who have been allowed into the military's ranks. The Army issued 511 waivers in 2007, compared to 249 in 2006. The Marine Corps issued 350 waivers last year compared to 208 the year before.
According to the new data, the Army and Marines have allowed recruits who have been convicted of assault with a dangerous weapn, burglary, drug abuse, sexual assault; in a few instances recruits were cleared to join after convinctions on terrorism or bomb-threat related charges.
"I understand that there can be valid reasons for personnel waivers and recognize the importance of providing opportunities to individuals who have served their sentences and rehabilitated themselves," Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the Oversight Committee's chairman, wrote in a letter (.pdf) to an undersecretary of defense. "At the same time, concerns have been raised that the significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining military readiness."
The military only provided data on felony waivers from 2006 and 2007, saying information from prior years or about personnel waivers granted for misdemeanor convictions had been lost due to poor record keeping, according to Waxman's letter. The committee chairman requested more internal documents about the protocol for granting waivers, whether the increase had to do with meeting tougher recruitment goals and any studies of the effectiveness of recruited felons the military might have produced.
Waxman's full letter is reprinted blow:
The Honorable David Chu
Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
U.S. Department of Defense
4000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-4000
Dear Dr. Chu:
Thank you for responding to the Committee’s request for information regarding military personnel waivers issued to U.S. service members. The data you provided the Committee shows that there was a rapid rise in 2007 in the number of waivers the Army and Marine Corps granted to recruits convicted of serious felonies, such as aggravated assault and burglary. Some recruits were even granted waivers for felony convictions involving sexual assault and terrorist threats. I am writing to seek more information about these trends and their implications for military readiness.
In response to our October 18, 2007, request, you provided the Committee with statistics regarding personnel waivers granted in 2006 and 2007 to enlistees who had been convicted of felonies. Your office informed Committee staff that due to poor recordkeeping and maintenance, you are unable to provide similar information for prior years or regarding serious misdemeanors. According to the data provided to the Committee, the Army and Marine Corps significantly increased the number of waivers they granted for enlistees with felony convictions from 2006 to 2007. Army waivers increased from 249 waivers in 2006 to 511 waivers in 2007, while Marine Corps waivers increased from 208 waivers in 2006 to 350 waivers in 2007. Both branches increased the number of waivers they granted for almost every type of felony offense.
In addition, the new data provided to the Committee shows for the first time some of the offenses for which the Army and Marine Corps have granted waivers. In 2007, the Army and Marine Corps granted 87 waivers to enlistees who had been convicted of “[a]ggravated assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, [or] maiming,” 248 waivers to enlistees who had been convicted of “[b]urglary,” and 130 waivers to enlistees who had been convicted of “[n]arcotics or habit-forming drugs; wrongful possession or use (marijuana not included).” The Army and Marine Corps also granted small numbers of waivers for the crimes of “[r]ape, sexual abuse, sexual assault, criminal sexual abuse, incest, or other sex crimes,” “[i]ndecent acts or liberties with a child, molestation,” and “[t]errorist threats including bomb threats.”
I understand that there can be valid reasons for personnel waivers and recognize the importance of providing opportunities to individuals who have served their sentences and rehabilitated themselves. At the same time, concerns have been raised that the significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining military readiness.
To help the Committee understand these issues, I request that you provide the Committee with the following documents:
Any documents created by the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, or Marine Corps that explain, discuss, or relate to the increased number of personnel conduct waivers since 2001;
Any documents created by the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, or Marine Corps that explain, discuss, or relate to the lowering of standards for enlistees and whether this has any relation to meeting recruitment goals;
Updated 2007 and 2008 data on the Distribution of Conduct Waivers by Offense Type for the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force;
Any data, studies, or analysis done by the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, or Air Force on the impact of increasing the number of personnel conduct waivers or on the performance of those enlistees for whom waivers were granted; and
Documents describing any programs that the Department of Defense, Army, Navy, or Marine Corps have in place to provide additional training, counseling, or oversight to those enlistees for whom waivers were granted.
Please provide these documents and information to the Committee as soon as possible but in no case later than May 20, 2008. In addition to the above documents and information, we also request that you provide a briefing on these issues on or before May 22, 2008.
The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is the principal oversight committee in the House of Representatives and has broad oversight jurisdiction as set forth in House Rule X. An attachment to this letter provides additional information about how to respond to the Committee’s request.
If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact Susanne Sachsman of the Committee staff at (202)....
Henry A. Waxman