At a time when high unemployment and high college costs compel more youths to consider military enlistment, a new federal report raises warnings about the tactics of some military recruiters.
Under pressure to meet their monthly quotas, some recruiters created fake high school diplomas for youths, hid the youths’ criminal records, failed to get parental signatures for their applications and helped some recruits cheat on their military aptitude tests, according to a the Government Accountability Office report on “recruiter irregularities” from 2006 through 2008. Other recruiters plied underage youths with drugs and alcohol and hounded them for sex.
“Of the 7,081 cases of recruiter irregularities reported by the service components during this time period,” the report says, “substantiated cases comprised 22.5 percent (or 1,592 cases).”
The punishments handed out by the Department of Defense included admonishment, court-martial and “other than honorable discharge.”
Rick Jahnkow, program coordinator for the Project on Youth and Non-Military Opportunities – which opposes military recruitment in schools – said the report should be required reading for school officials. “It will provide them with a reality check on what could be going on in their high schools, where recruiters are often allowed to wander unrestricted through lunch areas and hallways,” Jahnkow said.
The most common infraction involved “concealment or falsification of documents or information” in order to get recruits enlisted despite their checkered pasts or educational shortcomings. Examples include an Air Force recruiter omitting a DUI violation from an applicant’s application packet, and a Marine Corps recruiter attempting to have a recent recruit take the ASVAB for another applicant.
Other irregularities involved sex and drugs, such as a recruiter for the U.S. Marines impregnating a 17-year-old girl at the high school where he was assigned to recruit.
The report calls for the Department of Defense to do more to share data on recruiter wrongdoing in order to learn more about how to address the problem. In a written response to the report, the department said it “concurs with the report’s recommendations.”
The report was prepared for U.S. Rep. Susan A. Davis (D-Calif.), whose congressional district includes a large military base in San Diego, and U.S. Rep Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), whose district includes several military bases. Davis is the chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel. Wilson, perhaps best known for shouting “You lie!” to President Obama during a presidential speech to Congress last year, is its ranking member.