- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Under pressure to meet combat needs, the Army and Marine Corps brought in significantly more recruits with felony convictions last year than in 2006, including some with manslaughter and sex crime convictions.

Data released by a congressional committee shows that the number of people admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.

Those numbers represent a fraction of the more than 180,000 recruits brought in by the active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2007. But they highlight a trend that has raised concerns both within the military and on Capitol Hill.

The bulk of the crimes involved burglaries, other thefts, and drug offenses, but nine involved sex crimes and six involved manslaughter or vehicular homicide convictions. Several dozen Army and Marine recruits had aggravated assault or robbery convictions, including incidents involving weapons.

Both the Army and Marine Corps have been struggling to increase their numbers as part of a broader effort to meet the combat needs of a military fighting wars on two fronts. As a result, the number of recruits needing waivers for crimes or other bad conduct has grown in recent years, as well as those needing medical or aptitude waivers.

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry A. Waxman, who released the data, noted that there may be valid reasons for granting the waivers and giving people a second chance.

But he added, “Concerns have been raised that the significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining military readiness.”

The services use a waiver process to let in recruits with felony convictions, and many of the crimes were committed when the service members were juveniles.

According to the data released yesterday, a bit more than half of the Army’s 511 convictions in 2007 were for various types of thefts, ranging from burglaries to bad checks and stolen cars. Another 130 were for drug offenses.

The remainder, however, included two in 2007 for manslaughter, compared with one in 2006; five for sexual crimes (which can include rape, incest or sexual assaults) compared with two in 2006; and three for negligent or vehicular homicide, compared with two in 2006. Two received waivers for terrorist threats including bomb threats in 2007, compared with one in 2006.

At least 235 of the Marine Corps’ 350 waivers were for various types of thefts in 2007, and 63 were for assaults or robberies that may also have included use of a weapon. The remainder included one for manslaughter in 2007, compared with none in 2006; four for sex crimes, compared with one in 2006; and five for terror threats, including bomb threats, compared with two in 2006.

The total number of sailors who received felony waivers dipped from 48 in 2006 to 42 in 2007. Most were for a variety of thefts or drug and drunken-driving convictions. Two in 2007 were for terror or bomb threats compared with three in 2006.

There were no Air Force recruits with waivers for felony convictions in 2007.


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