Pentagon Seeks IRS Help To Locate Reservists

WaPo: Pentagon Seeks IRS Help To Locate Reservists

The Defense Department, strapped for troops for missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, has proposed to Congress that it tap the Internal Revenue Service to locate out-of-touch reservists.

The unusual measure, which the Pentagon said has been examined by lawyers, would allow the IRS to pass on addresses for 50,200 of the 280,000 former military members who still face recall into active duty as part of the Individual Ready Reserve. For it to become practice, Congress and President Bush would have to approve the proposal, which would involve amending the tax code.

Lt. Col. Bob Stone, a spokesman for the assistant defense secretary for reserve affairs, said the proposal was developed several years ago and is unconnected to the Army’s current troop shortage. Part or all of nine of the Army’s 10 active-duty divisions are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and 167,000 members of the reserves or National Guard are on active duty.

While I can’t come up with any rational reason to oppose this, it makes me a bit uneasy. Reservists, including those in the IRR, have a legal obligation to keep the Pentagon apprised of their location and, logically, it seems silly to segregate the information that the government legally possesses. Still, using the IRS’ vast database for this purpose has a bit of a Big Brother feel.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Fersboo says:

    I don’t remember the cite, and I am currently out of the office and can’t look it up, but I do remember covering this topic [sort of] during my tax law class in ’99. We were discussing how the IRS would consider any omission of income as tax evasion. The one thing that compensated reporting illegal income on your tax filings was the fact that the IRS legally wasn’t allowed to share information with other government agencies.

    That being said, I couldn’t see there being much hullabaloo, except by the fringe ‘there should be no government’ groups, as long as the exception was for addresses and was time sensitive.

  2. Jon Juzlak says:

    I agree that it makes me a little uneasy to use the IRS DB in this way. If the legislation was specifically crafted as a one-time thing, it may be OK.

    I don’t think these databases (IRS, BATF, Census etc.) should be touched except in exceptional circumstances or with a judicial order. Does this meet the exceptional circumstnace criterion ?