Monday, April 28, 2008


*UPDATE* 20080428 1738

I heard back from Mr. Boucai. He has said that he will look into his research when he gets the opportunity, but that won't be until next week at the earliest. However, he said that the numbers he reported from 2003-2006 were what he was provided by DoD and that there was no indication that they represented anything other than approved waivers. He also said that, to his best recollection (this was research he had started three years ago) that the DoD requires a waiver for felony convictions as well as a waiver for felony charges that are later reduced, dismissed, or acquitted. I did respond to him that DODI 1304.26 specifically states that felony convictions require a waiver. I haven't heard back yet, but I'm sure he's a busy fellow.

For what it's worth though I do imagine that he will be looking back on what he can. As a law publishing a report like he did, finding out that the base numbers he used were... inaccurate... cannot be good. This is beginning to look like a boneheaded response to a FOIA request from DoD.


Well, I managed to get some answers to my issue from Friday.

I contacted Professor Aaron Belkin from the Palm Center and he responded quickly with some answers to my questions regarding the data that was published by the Palm Center and the AP back in 2007.
Hi (SFC B) -- earlier reports were for waivers. Latest report from Waxman was for waivers that involved for convictions. Many folks waivered in were arrested but not convicted, hence the difference in the numbers.
Those who are familiar with recruiting probably spotted the issue right there. For those who did not spend time in the clutches of USAREC I'll excerpt AR 601-210 4-2e(1)
Applicants with a criminal history (regardless of disposition) or questionable moral character, but because of dismissed charges, plea bargains, or release without prosecution, must have a suitability review for determination ofenlistment. *Emphasis mine*
The numbers from the Palm Center in 2007 include reviews with waivers. This is doubly problematic. For one, these are people who are simply not guilty of the felonies which the study implied. For another this might have led to people being double-counted. Just suppose Johnny McSkippy was charged with burglary (serious criminal misconduct aka a felony), and possession of marijuana (a misdemeanor but requires a waiver). However he went to trial and was found not guilty of the burglary charge but was guilty of possession. He will require a review for the burglary charge and a waiver for the possession. Did Johnny McSkippy count twice in the report from 2007 because he was a suitability review AND and misdemeanor waiver?

I have emailed Michael Boucai, the writer of the original report from 2007 on which the Palm Center based their work, to ask him those questions and if I get a response I'll update.

Now this leads me to another gripe.

Why am I the person who had to discover this? I'm not paid to do this. It is not my job to research background on stories concerning the House Oversight and Reform Committee. I don't get a salary to contact professors and ask them for the details of the reports they issue. I'm not a reporter.

This subject does get into some deep, recruiting inside baseball. Waivers, reviews, serious offenses, serious criminal misconduct, administrative waivers and how you go about requesting them. I don't expect someone who has not done recruiting to "get" it all. However, someone with more than a passing familiarity with the inner-workings of the military might ask a question like "what were those waivers for exactly?". And if you ask that question, it's pretty likely that you'll find out that the waivers included reviews (that's what I did). It's also not like it was difficult to ask this question. I emailed Professor Belkin and had a response back within 90 minutes on a Friday morning. He answered my follow-up questions Friday afternoon from his PDA. He was extremely accessible and helpful.

So, why is it that, in the original reporting from 2007 there is no indication that anything more than a sound bite was sought from those interviewed? When an editor reviewed this did they ask what any of it meant? If so, why was no attempt at context provided in the report? When I wrote about this last year I pointed out that the quote from Professor Belkin about "100,000 people" was incorrect.
He's lumping together all waivers, medical and moral, from all services, into one big, scary number, and then implying that they are all people with "troubled pasts".
Honestly, this is just lazy reporting. The reporter excerpted the numbers from the report, sought a couple of scare quotes, and published the article. The fact the same reporter has covered the same story two years in a row, with no indication of looking into the past, just makes it easier for me to make sweeping proclimations regarding her work ethic and the quality of that work.

Now, why do I care? This, literally, doesn't matter to me. At least back when I was a recruiter *shudder* I could justify this by saying that I might have someone tell me I'm only recruiting felons. Now, I have little dealing with the public at large. Yet I persist. Why?

My reason is simple. This is used to slam the military. This subject is used as a back-handed way to denigrate the service while appearing to care. Who wouldn't want to know about the military being so thin as to require the services of hardened criminals? According to most research and polls, the military is America's most trusted institution. It's not even close. However, headlines like"U.S. is recruiting misfits for army", "Recruitment of felons up in U.S. Army and Marine Corps", and "Study: Military More Willing to Admit Felons" attempt to erode at that trust. Perhaps it's all just a bit of bitterness on the part of the press since in the same polls they tend to rate at the bottom?

However, poor reporting like this leads people to reduce their trust in the military. The same day that the AP released their story this year, comments like
Not much of a surprise here. Very expected.. it will get worse.
Honestly though, Command TOC has been ringing that bell like he was a french hunchback. You'd think that after playing the role of Chicken Little for the past three years he'd just stick to reporting about officers who get arrested for refusing to follow orders.
This is when I lose faith in the military, when the powers that be start issuing waivers for felons to join the army.
In the comments there I attempted to provide the context lacking. I'm afraid I didn'd do a good job.
However, I do believe it says something about our military readiness when we have to steadily increase such waivers.
Also attempted to provide the missing context there.

It's only a matter of time before someone decides to say that we need to draft people because we're recruiting too many felons. And when they do, I'll write about it again.

Anyways, I need to hit the road. I'll update as I can or is needed.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Carry the five...

There is a problem with the waiver numbers.

Originally I was going to just do an update to the original post, but it had grown unwieldly enough already so I'll just start from whole cloth.

I'm providing links to the sources I'm using so hopefully one of my more mathematically inclined readers (Hi Mom! Hi Mrs. SFC B!) can take a look and double check my math.

I'm using USAREC's G7/9 as my source for the total recruiting numbers. Because USAREC hates people they don't bother to provide a roll-up of total numbers enlisted for Active and USAR, so I do need to add them together when running these numbers.

I'm getting my waiver data from a couple of different sources.

First is the report from the House Oversight and GOvernment Reform Committee. This has specific felony waiver data for all the services for 2006 and 2007. It lists the number of felony waivers as 511 and 249 for 2007 and 2006.

Second is the report from the Palm Center of UC-Berkeley. They had done a FOIA request for waiver data to DoD and have their results published here. That has a breakdown for 2003-2006 by service and by type of waiver as well as a roll-up for all of DoD. It lists the number of felony waivers for 2006 and 2005 as 901 and 571. They also have a link to a report which provides moral waiver data from 1990-1997.

Third is a report which was originally published in the Baltimore Sun which gives felony waiver data from 2005 and 2004 as 630 and 408. The Palm Center's numbers say that there were 360 issued in 2004.

I'm very frustrated that there is simply no decent, consolidated source for this data. USAREC's numbers only go back to 2003. Anything before 2003 I basically need to go delving into newspaper reports to find some reference to it in a story that may or may not be about recruiting at all. The waiver data is no where to be found unless it's requested from Congress or FOIA. So to find that I need to hope that it was requested and published somewhere to be found. To top it all off, I have no idea what the reports about waiver data are actually reporting since they don't break it down by specific offense like the one in the House Oversight report does. The data from the Sun and the Palm Center might (probably?) be data they presented after doing their own analysis on what was provided to them by DoD. I'm actually pretty certain that's what happened in the data from the Palm Center because their categories are just wonky. (serious non-traffic?).

I actually find myself debating the merits of making my own FOIA request regarding the waiver data. Not to try and pump me ego up too much, but I'd like to think that, on the topic of Army waivers, I'm a bit more familiar with the topic than Lolita C. Baldor.

Speaking of being familair with Army waivers... in the past 14 months the AP has run two stories about the military, felons, and waivers. Both stories were bylined to Lolita C. Baldor. Neither story reports the same numbers. In the 2007 story she reports the data from the Palm Center for 2005 and 2006. The 2008 story reports the numbers from the House Oversight Committee for 2006 and 2007. No reference is made to the difference in the numbers she'd reported last year.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


*UPDATE 2* 200804241714

I'm having a bit of an issue here. There is a good bit of bad data out there and I have no idea what to make of any of it.

Unfortunatly, it looks like the only time the military releases waiver data is under a FOIA request because there is no DOD published source I can find that shows waiver data.

For example, the report from the Palm Center I mentioned last year stated that 901 felony waivers were granted by the Army in 2006. That does not jive with the report given to the House Oversight Committee where it states that there were 249 such waivers granted. It's a difference of 652 waivers. I have no idea how to account for that. The Palm Center's report doesn't break down the offenses like the one from DoD to the Oversight Committee does, so I'm curious if it's representing non serious offenses at felonies. Adding to my confusion is that, in a report published in the Baltimore Sun back in 2006 said that 630 (I just caught a typo I made in my entry on NCO Brief, I said 680, not 630) felony waivers were approved in 2005 and 408 in 2004. However the report from the Palm Center says that 571 and 360 were approved for those years.

I'd really, really like to see the raw data received from the Pentagon by the Palm Center instead of the summation they included in their report from last year.

Anyways... while I am loathe to use possibly bad data, I simply don't have access to any other source. So, using the data from the Palm Center for 2003-2005, and the data from the House report for 2006-2007, here is what the enlisted with a felony waiver trend looks like. You know what... just for openess' sake, I'm going to run 2006's numbers with both waiver amounts.

116,141 enlisted
511 felony waivers granted
.439% of enlistees required a felony waiver

.216%/ .783%




Total FY2003-2007

I'm going to keep looking around for anything I can find regarding earlier information and if i find it I'll update it.

I'm really curious about the discrepancy between the data from different sources. Without knowing exactly what was given to the Baltimore Sun or the Palm Center I can't even guess if it's an error in how they're reporting the data, or an error in how the data was reported. All of the services have different definitions for "felony", and there are some offenses which are considered felonies in one service, that are not a felony in another (the Army doesn't even call them felonies and instead calls them serious criminal misconduct, but that's semantics). So I'm thinking if it's a case of different analysts being inconsistent in what they're defining as a felony as time passes. Or maybe there were offenses that were considered felonies back in 2006, which are not considered felonies now, and when they crunched the numbers they used the current standard on past data?

Anyways, the bottom line seems to be that, at least since 2003, the Army has averaged .4% of its recruit pool requiring a felony waiver to enlist. 2006 is the outlier, whether it is the lowest or the highest depends on the data source you use.

*UPDATE* 20080424 0544

I was unfair to the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. They had originally requested data on waivers from 2001 until now. The DoD apparently said that such numbers were not available back that far because of poor recordkeeping. That may or may not be true. I have no idea what the ARIMS requirements are for processed waivers. However, maybe someone at DoD can contact the Palm Center at UC-Berkely and ask for them to share their data from 2005 since that was where I got it for my entry last year.


2008 will be my third year of writing on this blog. This is the third time in those three years that I have written an entry about waivers, felons, and the military. It's like those swallows who go to the same monastary during their migration. Earlier this week the House Committee on Oversight and Reform released a report on the number of felony waivers granted by the Army Services. The report covered all the services, but I'm only going to write about the Army because, frankly, I'm just not in the mood to research and crunch the numbers for everyone.

Needless to say, when a report comes out saying the Army recruited felons, the wire service story is soon to follow.
Data released by a congressional committee shows that the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007
Anyways, in 2006 the Army approved 249 waivers for felony offenses. Because Iraq is a terrible quagmire the Army had to resort to trolling outside of jails for people to dupe into enlisting and almost doubled the number of felony recruits by approving 511 felony waivers.

One of my favorite things about people reporting statistics is selective reporting. I can't totally blame the AP for this because the House report only covered two years. However if they were to have expanded the report's period to 2005 this is what we'd find. In 2005 there were 680 people enlisted with a felony waiver in the Army. I'm trying to remember all the stories about how the Army reduced the number of felons enlisting by over 30% last year. Some Google-Fu reveals.... none. So, in the two years since the Army had its worst recruiting year in a long time, the Army has managed to increase the number of people enlisting, while reducing the number of felony waivers by 25%

Let me say this again... since 2005 the Army has INCREASED recruiting by 17%, while REDUCING the number of felony waivers by 25%. But of course I have to research this and report on it when I should be playing Everquest 2, watching the Astros, or playing with the puppy because the people who are paid to do this can't bother to ask themselves "How far back does this trend go?". That our own elected representives can't be bothered to ask the same question is also annoying.

511 though is a pretty big number. It's a large battalion's worth of people. And taken out of context it's a pretty ominous thing. Imagine going up to a stranger and saying "Did you know the Army enlisted 511 felons last year? Some of them who were guilty of rape?" It's shocking really and calls into question just what sort of people are serving in the uniform. However, there were 116,141 people enlisted last year, 115,630 who did not require a felony waiver. Felons represented .4% of the entire pool of people enlisted last year. In comparison, 1% of US senators were members of the KKK. Somehow the fact that .4% of people who joined the Army required a felony waiver represents the eroding of the quality of the US Army?

Around this time of year, for the past three years, the same "The Army is lowering standards" tripe gets rolled out. Think about the progress Soldiers have made in Iraq and Afghanistan in that same time. Soldiers represent this nation abroad to the people of the most violent region on Earth, and they have done so admirably. The progress made in Iraq in the past year would simply not be possible if the perception of Soldiers that those advancing this meme was true. There are junior NCO Marines who are representing US interests to schools in Iraq. There are field grade officers who are making decisions that have strategic consquences. This is simply not possible unless the people who are joining the Army are, at worst, above average compared to the rest of the population.

I know what it takes to enlist someone with a felony conviction. It is not easy. It is a lot of work, and that person has to want to join the Army with all their heart and soul, and they must have a deep conviction that they can serve honorably. Even if they want it that badly they can, and will, be denied enlistment if anyone in the chain feels different. Even if they're approved and they enlist, it still doesn't mean they will make a good Soldier, but they'll fail of their own volition, not because of their past.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Leonidas would have totally pwnd Xerses with...


I have now published 400 posts. And I thank each and everyone one of you for reading some of them.

Seriously. I'll call you and thank you since I'm related to you all by blood or marriage.

The photos from the vacation are coming shortly. I'm still going through them and sorting them into some semblance of order so I can actually find what I need to. That and I'm trying to cut down on the number of times you poor, poor people must see my horrible, splotchy sunburn. Trust me, you'll appreciate it.

So, anyways, while I've been slacking off and not accomplishing much on my blog, I have been busy around the house. I installed ceiling fans in the remaining, fanless rooms, including the master bedrooms vaulted ceiling. Mrs. SFC B and I also managed to remove the field of weeds our front yard had become while we were on vacation. The house has much greater "curb appeal" now. This weekend I plan to remove the weed bushes from the backyard, and possibly even start some of the landscaping we have been talking about doing. We're also taking a trip up to Cottonwood, AZ to check out a BBQ place.

At lunch today I saw the funniest thing I have seen in a while. I pulled into the parking lot and there was a little bit of a brou-haha. Apparently someone was arguing with another person about a handicapped spot. I figured it was some handicapped person reading someone who was not handicapped the riot act because they parked in the spot.

I was wrong.

It was an older man with no legs arguing with a mordibly obese woman and they both had handicapped permits. They were arguing over who deserved the spot more. Now... I have no idea how the gentleman with no legs lost them... but I'm willing to bet that since he did lose them, his "victories" have been more moral rather than cut-and-dry. While a one-legged man might not do well in a butt-kicking contest, he will do a lot better than the no-legged man. Even morbidly obese woman will probably do better in said contest (as a matter of fact "How They Do In A Butt Kicking Contest" is my new standard for defining how crippled someone is). However, man with no legs wins the "Who is More Crippled?" contest hands down. Needless to say, I am going to be struck by lightning for being as gawking at this spectacle as I was.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Almost home

Well, we docked safely and managed to make it through customs with few issues. So Mrs. SFC B and I are currently staying with my mom (Hi Mom!). We'll be headed to the airport tomorrow and should arrived back in the valley sometime tomorrow afternoon. It was a blast, however I'm looking forward to getting back. It's nice to actually look forward to returning to your life instead of dreading the end of leave.

Speaking of nearing the end, SSG Rage, my recruiting hero, is anticipated to return home sometime in the not-too-distance future. Whne I get word he's back home safe, I'll let you seven readers know it as well. Assuming he doesn't comment or post about it himself.

Anyways, I wanted to update the vacation posts with pictures, but mom's computer doesn't have a slot for an SD card so it will have to wait for tomorrow. I'm sure you all can't wait to see how much fun we had while y'all were slaving away in your salt mines.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Misery in Paradise

Grand Cayman is gorgeous. Mrs. SFC B described it as Phoenix and Plymouth having a love child. And she's not far off. The buildings look like a combination of Colonial design with a Southwest color scheme. It's beautiful. I'd have loved to spend the day just cruising the streets and checking out the flavor.

Unfortunatly we didn't do that.

We attempted to kayak and snorkel.

To be fair, I really enjoyed myself while we were snorkleing. Apparently Grand Cayman has some of the nicest snorkeling areas in the world. I believe that. We were surrounded by a cast of extras from Finding Nemo, and the water was like a cool bath. It was heavenly. Too bad we had to ruin it by kayaking.

The misery was entirely mine, and of my own creation. When the tour group Mrs. SFC B and I were in hit the beach with the kayaks we attempted to row ourselves to the snorkeling portion. It failed. Terribly. Mrs. SFC B and I could never find anything vaguely resembling a rythym. And for the split second times when we'd both look like we might have, either I was rowing too hard, or she was rowing too soft. If we were trying to execute that zig-zag ships would do when trying to evade U-Boats in WWII, we were nearly perfect. However there wasn't a torpedo in the water to be found. It took us twice the time, and four times the effort, of the other pairs to make it to the beach.

This left me tired and frustrated. The snorkeling made up for it though.

Heavenly. Simply heavenly. Used the underwater camera and hopefully I'll add pictures from it when they're developed and ready.

The kayak back to the starting point was even worse. Anything you'd have thought we'd have learned on our trip out was never learned. About the only thing we did right was keep the thing afloat, and I think I came close to jacking that up a couple of times.

I was tired, frustrated, and now unpleasant to be around. We wound up just rowing to the shore and I proceeded to walk a half mile through surf to bring the kayak back to the starting point. I was already left with a series of blisters on my hands, a sore back and shoulders from the over-exertion while rowing. Now my quads are on fire from, basically, walking through three to four feet of water for half a mile, and having the soles of my feet cut up from the shells and coral fragments on that area of the shore. I was also a bit dehydrated and sun-burned from head to toe.

Had I tried to design the single most miserable cruise excursion I could have, which I'd have still been foolish enough to attempt, it would have looked an awful lot like what I did today. There is a reason people strove to invent an easier way to get across water. Because using manual power to do so sucks, and sucks terribly. Mrs. SFC B had kayaked on Costa Maya last year and loved it. She loved it so much that she got a brochure which showcased a kayak dealer in the Phoenix area. All the people in that magazine were smiling, happy people. I'm going to find those people and kick them in the shins.

Kayaking: I'm against it.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


For all the talk about how awesome Jamacia is, it sure is run down. I have no idea what Jamacia's culture and history is beyond the flyer that I got when I disembarked the ship, but it sure seems like they value the run-down look.

Mrs. SFC B and I had a good enough time, I was just left... saddened... by the shabby conditions of what, supposedly, is the "tourist" area. Cinder block homes with corrugated sheet metal roofs held in place by heavy rocks. Water which is delivered to the house by hand, and the pressure comes from the fact the water tank is placed on the roof. Then there is the fact that everything was wicked over-priced (even considering the "tourist"