Pentagon Alerted to Trouble in Ranks
LA Times — Pentagon Alerted to Trouble in Ranks
The Pentagon was warned repeatedly going back a decade that it was accepting military recruits with criminal histories and was too lenient with those already in uniform who exhibited violent or other troubling behavior. Six studies prepared over 10 years by an outside expert at the Pentagon’s request found that too little was being done to discipline lawbreakers in uniform or even identify problem recruits.
A 1998 study estimated that one-third of military recruits had arrest records. A 1995 report found that one out of four Army career enlisted personnel had committed one or more criminal offenses while on active duty. Yet many were allowed to reenlist or received promotions. Some received good-conduct medals or held top secret security clearances, the research found. The 1995 study cited the case of one soldier who was promoted to sergeant despite a record of behavior that included multiple assaults, drunk and disorderly conduct, property destruction and obstruction of justice. As recently as last year, only a month before some of the worst abuses of Iraqi detainees occurred at Abu Ghraib prison, one of the reports said some troops were in positions “where destructive acts could have the most serious consequences.” “An immediate problem faced by Defense is that there are military personnel with pre-service and in-service records that clearly establish a pattern of substandard behavior,” the 2003 report said. “These individuals constitute a high-risk group for destructive behavior and need to be identified.”
The September 2003 study, titled “Reducing the Threat of Destructive Behavior by Military Personnel” and released to The Times with the Pentagon’s permission, was written by Eli S. Flyer, a former senior analyst at the Defense Department and a longtime Pentagon consultant. It examined recruiting of active-duty troops and misconduct by uniformed personnel once they entered the armed forces. Military reservists undergo the same screening process as active-duty troops, Flyer said. Although the Pentagon adopted some new procedures, they were not adequate, Flyer’s most recent report said. The military services have resisted improving screening procedures because that “would reduce applicant supply,” the 2003 report said, alluding to problems some services have had in recent years meeting recruitment goals.
This is disturbing, although it doesn’t square with my (granted, now rather dated) experience. While there was a time that drunkeness and assault were considered a normal part of enlisted military culture, it had long passed by my tenure (1984-92).
Reporting of isolated anecdotes–one guy promoted to E-5?! — as if they were routine is not a good sign. Lumping “arrest records,” “criminal offenses,” and “some . . . were promoted” into the same paragraph gives the impression of grossly inflated numbers. There are a half dozen reports cited in the story. What are the aggregate numbers?