By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2006 – The Defense Department has an enviable track record in enforcing ethical recruiting standards but plans to institute new policies to better identify and root out problem areas, a senior Pentagon official said today. Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy, disputed findings of a General Accountability Office study released yesterday that charge serious recruiting violations within DoD.
The report notes a 50-percent jump in recruiter wrongdoing, from 4,400 cases in fiscal 2004 to 6,600 cases in 2005. During the same timeframe, the number of substantiated cases increased from 400 to 630, the report notes. The infractions cited ran the gamut, from paperwork problems to outright falsifications, Carr said during a joint interview with the Pentagon Channel and American Forces Press Service.
Even one infraction is one too many, Carr said, but he disagreed that DoD's recruiting operations are in trouble. In fact, he said, human resource managers within large corporations would jump at the chance to have such rigorous standards. The cases identified by GAO represent just 0.3 percent of all military recruits. "Three-tenths of 1 percent of accessions are affected," Carr said. "So we are 99.7 percent square in the recruiting performance, and that is a pretty terrific accomplishment."
Most of the reported increases are traceable, not to an increase in misconduct, but to the way the services keep records, Carr said. Nearly all the reported increases occurred within the Air Force -- the one military service focused more on drawing down than boosting its force -- and reflect a new Air Force administrative procedure that tracks recruits from the moment they make an initial contact with a recruiter until they complete basic training. The Army, Navy and Marine Corps track recruits only until they officially join the military and ship off to entry-level training.
"Instead of looking at a window this large," Carr said, raising his hands about eight inches apart, "we're looking at a window this wide," he said, moving his hands outward. "And it simply was an unfair comparison for GAO to pursue." The military has nothing to gain by fudging its numbers or selling potential recruits a bill of goods, Carr said. "If we have made a promise that is not accurate, then we have a soldier, sailor, airman or Marine who is not happy," he said.
That can impact on an entire unit, hurting not only morale, but also readiness. "It is not in our interest to mislead anyone, and it certainly doesn't serve the training base well at all to have a dissatisfied recruit coming in," he said. The American public also has little patience for recruiter improprieties. "The public is interested in making sure that the military and its recruiting operation and its promise are legit, because, after all, it is their sons and daughters who are joining," Carr said. "They ... want to be sure that promises made are promises kept, and we have the same interest."
The military services can meet their recruiting goals without making false promises to would-be recruits. "So our interest is in a straight-up, ethical presentation of the facts," Carr said. "We have proven that, and to cut corners is simply out of line. And we have no place for it for recruiting." To help reduce the incidence of recruiting misconduct and identify it more quickly when it happens, DoD will take measures to provide more oversight over recruiting operations and to require all the services to report the same facts the same way, Carr said.
"We have to be careful about collecting those things we care about systematically so that we can track trends," he said. "We can do better there."