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.


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