[R-G] Military Grants More Waivers to Recruits
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Tue Feb 13 22:34:02 MST 2007
Copyright 2007 Associated Press
All Rights Reserved
Associated Press Online
February 14, 2007 Wednesday 2:36 AM GMT
SECTION: WASHINGTON DATELINE
LENGTH: 876 words
HEADLINE: Military Grants More Waivers to Recruits
BYLINE: By LOLITA C. BALDOR, Associated Press Writer
The Army and Marine Corps are letting in more recruits with criminal
records, including some with felony convictions, reflecting the
increased pressure of five years of war and its mounting casualties.
According to data compiled by the Defense Department, the number of
Army and Marine recruits needing waivers for felonies and serious
misdemeanors, including minor drug offenses, has grown since 2003.
The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies
and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003. Some recruits may get
more than one waiver.
The military routinely grants waivers to admit recruits who have
criminal records, medical problems or low aptitude scores that would
otherwise disqualify them from service. Overall the majority are
moral waivers, which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic
and drug offenses.
The number of felony waivers granted by the Army grew from 411 in
2003 to 901 in 2006, according to the Pentagon, or about one in 10 of
the moral waivers approved that year. Other misdemeanors, which could
be petty theft, writing a bad check or some assaults, jumped from
about 2,700 to more than 6,000 in 2006. The minor crimes represented
more than three-quarters of the moral waivers granted by the Army in
2006, up from more than half in 2003.
Army and Defense Department officials defended the waiver program as
a way to admit young people who may have made a mistake early in life
but have overcome past behavior. And they said about two-thirds of
the waivers granted by the Marines are for drug use, because they
unlike the other services require a waiver if someone has been
convicted once for marijuana use.
Lawmakers and other observers say they are concerned that the
struggle to fill the military ranks in this time of war has forced
the services to lower their moral standards.
"The data is crystal clear. Our armed forces are under incredible
strain and the only way that they can fill their recruiting quotas is
by lowering their standards," said Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., who
has been working to get additional data from the Pentagon. "By
lowering standards, we are endangering the rest of our armed forces
and sending the wrong message to potential recruits across the country."
Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Tuesday he is concerned because the
Pentagon data differs from Army numbers. But overall, he said,
"anything that is considered a risk or a serious infraction of the
law is given the highest level of review."
"Our goal is to make certain that we recruit quality young men and
women who can keep America defended against its enemies," Boyce said.
The data was obtained through a federal information request and
released by the California-based Michael D. Palm Center, a think tank
that studies military issues.
"The fact that the military has allowed more than 100,000 people with
such troubled pasts to join its ranks over the past three years
illustrates the problem we're having meeting our military needs in
this time of war," said Aaron Belkin, director of the center.
Belkin said a new study commissioned by the center also concludes
that the military does not have any programs that help convicted
felons adjust to military life.
In recent years, as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have dragged on,
the military has also relaxed some standards in order to meet
recruitment demands. The Army, for example, increased its age limit
for recruits from 35 to 42, and is accepting more people whose scores
on a standardized aptitude test are at the lower end of the
In its report, the Pentagon said, "The waiver process recognizes that
some young people have made mistakes, have overcome their past
behavior, and have clearly demonstrated the potential for being
productive, law-abiding citizens and members of the military."
According to the Pentagon, nearly a quarter of new military recruits
needed some type of waiver in 2006, up from 20 percent in 2003.
Roughly 30,000 moral waivers were approved each year between 2003 and
The military in its report divides moral waivers into six categories:
felonies, serious and minor non-traffic offenses, serious and minor
traffic offenses and drug offenses. Because many states have
different crimes categorized as a felony or misdemeanor, the
groupings are more general.
About one in five Army recruits needed a waiver to enlist in 2006, up
from 12.7 percent in 2003. In addition, the report showed that the
Army granted substantially fewer waivers for drug use and serious
traffic violations last year than in 2003.
More than half of the Marine recruits needed a waiver in 2006, a bit
higher than in 2003, and largely due to their more strict drug
requirements. Felony waivers made up about 2 percent of the Marine
waivers, while other lesser crimes made up about 25 percent, both up
slightly from 2003.
About 18 percent of Navy recruits required a waiver, up only slightly
from 2003. Two-thirds of the waivers granted by the Navy were for
misdemeanor-type crimes and about 5 percent were for felonies.
Just 8 percent of Air Force recruits had waivers, down a bit from
2003. Nearly all of the waivers were for the misdemeanor-type crimes.
On the Net:
Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil
Palm Center: http://www.palmcenter.org
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