Monday, August 21, 2006

Recruiting "Irregularities"

A new report from the Government Accounting Office outlines what it calls “recruiting irregularities.” For those unfamiliar with such charitably bureaucratic language, that means instances of unethical or illegal behavior by recruiters.

Apart from the always-shocking instances of recruiters sexually assaulting new recruits, the bland GAO report actually has quite a few stories to tell.

Particularly interesting are a few statistical tidbits that confirm some of the things I’ve heard on the GI Rights Hotline. For instance, pages 30-34 show that about 30% of recruiting irregularities in the Army have to due with recruiters covering up, in one way or another, new recruits’ medical histories. Many of the people I talk with (some with quite debilitating illnesses, like one poor guy who seems to have had Guillain-Barré syndrome) accuse their recruiters of having cajoled/encouraged/persuaded/commanded them to lie about their medical histories. They need to lie about medical histories because otherwise they couldn’t get into the military.

There’s a heck of a lot of problems with recruiters doing that. Apart from the fact that they’re endangering the recruit’s life, the lives of his/her fellow servicemembers, and asking him/her to lie, recruiters also cost the government a lot of money. According to the GAO report (page 25), the Army spends $17,000 just to recruit and process each recruit, and another $50,000 or so to get them through basic training.

That means that this particular “recruiting irregularity,” aside from being grossly immoral in and of itself, probably also costs American taxpayers millions of dollars a year.

So why do recruiters do it? Well, every branch of the military (except the Marines) rewards recruiters based on how many recruits they get to sign an initial contract, not how many recruits actually make it through training (page 25). So a recruiter can put sick recruit after sick recruit into boot camp, and even if every one of those recruits gets sent home early for medical reasons, that recruiter can still win that “Best Recruiter of the Year” trophy.

The GAO has been recommending a change in recruiter evaluation policies for some 8 or 9 years in order to do away with the institutional rewards for immoral recruiting practices, but nothing has come of it yet.

Ah, bureaucracy. Let’s give it a hand, folks.


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