Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Uncle Sam Wants You. Don't Make Him Come And Get You

OK, so we're bouncing around the internets yesterday, doing things like typing "aureole" into Google just to see what happens (the boss is on vacation) and we ran across this. Our first thoughts were, did we miss something? Has the war turned the corner? Are the insurgents in the last throes? Did Kos send a memo we didn't see?

Intrigued, but mostly frightened that we had run afoul of The Kos (Hey, look what happened to Lieberman's site. Do we need to draw you a picture?) we began looking for an explanation. Well, it wasn't long before we were able to break out the Stoli and get back to typing naked Monica Bellucci into Google again. Actually we could have probably figured it out ourselves if we'd just thought about it for a minute. Well, if we'd thought about it for a minute before the afternoon Stoli break. After all, what do you do when even the bottom half of the recruitment pool has figured out being shipped off to a desert and blown up probably isn't a good career move? Cheat. And cheat big.

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. "'Violation' is such a strong word," said Michael L. Dominguez, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness. "Just because the kid had been up thirty-six hours straight when he signed the enlistment papers, is that our fault? Well, OK maybe it was, but it's not like we beat him or anything. Well, not that kid anyway."

According to service data provided to the GAO, substantiated cases of wrongdoing jumped from about 400 cases in 2004 to almost 630 in 2005. Meanwhile, criminal cases — such as sexual harassment or falsifying medical records — more than doubled in those years, jumping from 30 incidents to 70. "Hey, we didn't know the kid was deaf," said a Department of Defense spokesperson. "We just thought the didn't pay attention very well. And as for that other case, well, anyone can say they're blind."

In a letter to the GAO included in the report, the Defense Department said it agreed the services must establish an internal system to track reports of recruiter wrongdoing. "We certainly agree with the GAO statement that even one incident of recruiter wrongdoing can erode public confidence in DOD's recruiting process," wrote Michael Dominguez. "But so what? Can you name me one branch of government the public has confidence in? Why should we be singled out for competence or ethics?"

A majority of recruiters also reported dissatisfaction with their jobs. "Where do you think I learned the tricks I'm using now," said one recruiter who asked to remain anonymous. "You think anyone with any marketable skills at all would want to be a recruiter these days?"

GAO previously has suggested that the military link incentives for recruiters more closely to an applicant's ability to complete basic training, rather than to their willingness to sign up. "We sort of called it No Recruit Left Behind," said spokespersonon for the GAO. "But the Pentagon told us they didn't like it because 'accountability was for civilians.'"

GAO warned that reports of recruiter misconduct are likely too low because the services do not track such cases and many incidents likely go unreported. The Defense Department, GAO found, is not "in a sound position to assure the general public that it knows the full extent to which recruiter irregularities are occurring."

"Thank god for that," said Dominguez. "You think our numbers are bad now..."

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