oversight

Military Recruiting: New Initiatives Could Improve Criminal History Screening

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-02-23.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                  United States General Accounting Office

GAO               Report to the Chairman and the Ranking
                  Minority Member, Subcommittee on
                  Personnel, Committee on Armed
                  Services, U.S. Senate

February 1999
                  MILITARY
                  RECRUITING
                  New Initiatives Could
                  Improve Criminal
                  History Screening




GAO/NSIAD-99-53
                   United States
GAO                General Accounting Office
                   Washington, D.C. 20548

                   National Security and
                   International Affairs Division

                   B-281719

                   February 23, 1999

                   The Honorable Wayne Allard
                   Chairman
                   The Honorable Max Cleland
                   Ranking Minority Member
                   Subcommittee on Personnel
                   Committee on Armed Services
                   United States Senate

                   To enter the military services, applicants must meet several Department of
                   Defense (DOD) entrance qualification standards, such as moral character,
                   physical fitness, and dependency status, or be granted a waiver.
                   Notwithstanding the moral character standards, a criminal history record1
                   for any type of crime, including a felony, does not automatically eliminate
                   someone from consideration because they may be granted a “moral
                   character waiver” (referred to in this report as moral waiver)—an
                   agreement to enlist an individual despite past behavior. Of the 1.5 million
                   individuals the military services enlisted in fiscal years 1990 through 1997,
                   about 192,000 were granted a waiver for moral character reasons.

                   Concerned about the moral character qualifications of enlisted personnel,
                   you requested that we (1) determine the extent to which relevant criminal
                   history information on potential enlistees is available to the military
                   services and (2) identify any federal government initiatives that could
                   improve the process of obtaining criminal history information. We are also
                   providing data comparing enlistees entering military service with moral
                   waivers to those without, and their reasons for separation. This
                   information is presented in appendix I.


                   The military services have extensive policies and procedures for
Results in Brief   encouraging applicants to self-report criminal history information. Among
                   other things, the services repeatedly query each applicant, providing as
                   many as 14 opportunities to disclose any criminal offenses to as many as
                   seven different service and military entrance processing station officials.
                   The services also conduct periodic inspections and investigations to
                   ensure the integrity of the entire recruiting process, which includes the
                   disclosure of disqualifying information. The services, however, are not

                   1
                    “Criminal history records” are fingerprint cards or their electronic counterparts, linked with
                   identifying information and available data on arrests, convictions, and sentences. Not included are
                   state or local criminal justice agency records sealed under law. Records of offenses committed by
                   juveniles are frequently sealed.



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             always able to obtain or substantiate all available criminal history
             information because of service policies and federal, state, and local laws
             and policies that sometimes preclude access. First, the services do not use
             fingerprints to substantiate the majority of enlistees’ criminal histories.
             Without full fingerprint searches, the services cannot detect undisclosed
             aliases and ensure that they are aware of all available criminal history
             information. Second, federal law and state and local laws and policies,
             which generally limit or prohibit disclosure of criminal history
             information, impede the recruiting community’s access to certain criminal
             history information. In addition, state and local governments sometimes
             charge fees or require fingerprints to release the information. Third,
             available criminal history databases (not controlled by DOD) are
             incomplete. Of further concern is the services’ practice of sending
             enlistees to basic training before the results of criminal record checks are
             received. This practice results in training costs that could be avoided.

             Several DOD and Department of Justice initiatives are underway that could
             improve the process of obtaining criminal history information. These
             initiatives have the potential of making available to DOD and the services
             more complete information upon which to make moral waiver decisions
             and expedite the process for obtaining record checks. However, DOD and
             the services have not yet formulated a coordinated approach for using
             these initiatives to better ensure that the military does not enlist and train
             individuals with undesirable backgrounds.


             Military enlistees must meet basic DOD and military service entrance
Background   qualification standards on age, citizenship, education, aptitude, physical
             fitness, dependency status, and moral character. Screening to determine
             whether applicants meet these standards or merit being granted a waiver
             begins with a recruiter’s initial contact with a potential applicant and
             continues through their entrance into basic training. In deciding whether
             to grant a moral waiver, the services employ the “whole person” concept:
             They consider the circumstances surrounding the criminal violations, the
             age of the person committing them, and personal interviews.

             As figure 1 shows, the services differ in both the way they categorize
             criminal offenses and the criteria they use for requiring moral waivers. In
             general, however, the services require moral waivers for convictions or
             adverse adjudications for criminal offenses as follows:




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(1) “felonies”—such as murder and grand larceny;2 (2) “non-minor
(serious) misdemeanors”—assault and petty larceny; (3) “minor
misdemeanors”—discharging a firearm within city limits and removing
property from public grounds; (4) “minor non-traffic”—disorderly conduct
and vandalism; (5) “serious traffic”—driving with revoked license and
failure to comply with officer’s directions; and (6) “minor
traffic”—speeding and driving without a license. The services, except for
the Army, also grant moral waivers for preservice drug and alcohol abuse.
None of the services grant waivers for certain offenses, such as the
trafficking, sale, or distribution of illegal drugs.




2
 10 U.S.C. 504 provides that no person convicted of a felony may be enlisted in any of the armed
services; however, the secretaries of the respective services are authorized to make exceptions in
meritorious cases.



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Figure 1: Level of Offenses and Military Service Criteria for Requiring Moral Waivers

   Level of offense              Army                                Navy                    Marine Corps                       Air Force



                       One: no waiver allowed for         One or more.                 One; no waiver allowed for        One or more.
        Felony         more than one.                                                  more than one.



 Non-minor (serious)   Two through four; no waiver        One or two; no waiver        One through five; no waiver       One or more.
 misdemeanor           allowed for five or more.          allowed for three or more.   allowed for six or more.




                        Category not used.                Three through five; no       Category not used.                One or more.
 Minor misdemeanor
                                                          waiver allowed for six or
                                                          more.



                       Three or more; three               Three through five; no       Two through nine; no              Depending on the
  Minor non-traffic
                       convictions of a combination       waiver allowed for six or    waiver allowed for 10 or          seriousness of the offense:
                       of misdemeanors and minor          more.                        more.                             One or more, or two in the
                       non-traffic.                                                                                      last 3 years, or three or
                                                                                                                         more in a lifetime.




   Serious traffic      Category not used.                 Category not used.           Two or more; no                   Category not used.
                                                                                        waiver allowed for six
                                                                                        or more.



                                                                                                                         Depending on the
    Minor traffic       Six or more where the             Six or more in any           Five or more.
                                                                                                                         seriousness of the offense:
                        fine was $100 or                  12-month period during
                                                                                                                         (1)two in last 3 years, or
                        more per offense.                 3 years preceding                                              three or more in a lifetime
                                                          enlistment. Ten or more
                                                          within 3 years preceding
                                                                                                                         or (2) six or more minor
                                                          enlistment.                                                    traffic or five minor traffic
                                                                                                                         and one minor non-traffic in
                                                                                                                         any 1-year period within the
                                                                                                                         last 3 years.


                                                     Source: Service regulations.




                                                     Appendix I provides detailed information about how often and for what
                                                     reasons the services granted moral waivers to enlistees during the fiscal
                                                     years 1990 through 1997 period. Overall, DOD’s Defense Manpower Data
                                                     Center (DMDC) data for this 8-fiscal year period shows the following:




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                             •   moral waivers accounted for 62 percent of all waivers granted3 and
                                 represented 13 percent of all individuals enlisted;
                             •   although annual DOD-wide enlistments fluctuated between about 162,000
                                 and 223,000 during this period, the rate of granting moral waivers
                                 consistently declined from 17.5 percent to 7.8 percent of all enlistees—a
                                 total decrease of over 60 percent;
                             •   of the moral waivers granted, non-minor (serious) misdemeanors and
                                 preservice drug and alcohol abuse categories accounted for over
                                 75 percent, minor non-traffic and traffic offenses for about 20 percent, and
                                 felonies committed either as an adult or juvenile about 3 percent; and
                             •   the number of moral waivers granted in all categories decreased, but
                                 felony and non-minor misdemeanor waivers increased as a percentage of
                                 total moral waivers granted.


                                 The services’ policies and procedures for screening for criminal histories
Screening Policies               and granting moral waivers are extensive and are intended to encourage
and Procedures Are               applicants to reveal their criminal history information. However, because
Extensive, but Record            of limitations in records checks, the services are not always able to obtain
                                 or substantiate all available criminal history information. First, the
Checks Are Limited               majority of the national agency checks are conducted without using an
                                 applicant’s fingerprints to verify or search for records. Also, service
                                 policies and federal, state, and local laws and policies sometimes limit or
                                 preclude access to criminal history information, and the criminal history
                                 databases relied on by the services for record checks are incomplete. Of
                                 further concern is the services’ practice of sending enlistees to training
                                 before the results of criminal record checks are received, which incurs
                                 unnecessary costs.


Extensive Policies and           Each service screens for criminal background information in a similar
Procedures Exist for             manner. Figure 2 shows how the following screening tools fit in the
Gathering Criminal History       recruiting process: (1) face-to-face interviews, briefings, and completion of
                                 forms; (2) law enforcement agency record checks at the state and local
Information                      levels; and (3) national agency record checks conducted by the Defense
                                 Security Service.4


                                 3
                                  Includes waivers granted for age, citizenship, education, aptitude, physical fitness, dependency status,
                                 and moral character.
                                 4
                                  This check, referred to as the Entrance National Agency Check, is a records search by appropriate
                                 federal agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) (for felony and serious
                                 misdemeanor offenses), the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Immigration and Naturalization
                                 Service.



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Figure 2: Recruiting Process and Criminal History Screening Tools




                Applicant
                                                                                            Military Entrance Processing Stations
                                       Service recruiter contacts
                                                                                             Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Test
                                        interviews/briefings
                                                                                             physical exam
                                        completion of forms
                                                                                             interviews/briefings
                                        state and local records checks
                                                                                             review of forms
                                                                                             fingerprints
                                                                                             briefing and first enlistment oath




   Delayed Entry Program
   (Enlistee is unpaid member of
   reserves.)
   (Up to 1 year)
     entrance national agency checks
     periodic enlistee contacts/                                                                          Basic Training
     interviews                             Military Entrance Processing Stations
                                                                                                          (Enlistee is active duty servicemember.)
     opportunity for discharge for           physical exam
                                                                                                          (6 to 12 weeks)
     unsuitablility                          interviews/briefings
                                                                                                            "moment of truth" briefing
                                             final review and processing of forms
                                                                                                             opportunity for discharge for unsuitability
                                             briefing and second enlistment oath
                                              opportunity for discharge for unsuitability




                                                  Note: A moral waiver can be initiated when criminal history information is disclosed during any of
                                                  these steps.

                                                  Source: Data compiled from the Military Entrance Processing Command and the military services’
                                                  policies and procedures.




                                                  According to recruiting officials, screening to identify criminal histories
                                                  begins when recruiters contact potential applicants informally—over the
                                                  telephone, at shopping malls, or in schools. Through interviews and
                                                  briefings listed in figure 3, the services provide applicants with as many as
                                                  14 different opportunities to disclose any prior criminal offenses and
                                                  convictions to as many as 7 different recruiting, military entrance
                                                  processing station, and training officials. The recruiting officials also




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                                         stated that security interviews are conducted for applicants enlisting in
                                         jobs requiring secret or top secret clearances.


Figure 3: Interviews and Briefings for
Gathering Criminal History Information
                                                                                                                  Conducted by the
                                                       Interview or               Conducted by the                Military Entrance
                                                         briefing                     service:                   Processing Station:


                                          Pre-interview                      Recruiter



                                          Initial interview                  Recruiter


                                          Pre-Military Entrance Processing   Recruiter and/or recruiter
                                          Station briefing                   chain of command


                                          Pre-enlistment medical interview                                     Medical personnel


                                          Guidance counselor/ liaison        Guidance counselor or liaison
                                          interview


                                          Pre-enlistment interview                                             Processing personnel


                                          First enlistment ceremony
                                                                                                               Enlisting officer
                                          briefing


                                          Delayed Entry Program follow up    Recruiter


                                                                             Recruiter and/or recruiter
                                          Active duty briefing               chain of command


                                          Pre-accession medical interview                                      Medical personnel


                                          Guidance counselor/liaison         Guidance counselor or liaison
                                          interview


                                          Pre-accession briefing                                               Processing personnel


                                          Second enlistment ceremony
                                                                                                               Enlisting officer
                                          briefing


                                          Basic training briefing            Basic training personnel




                                                                                                               (Figure notes on next page)




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Notes: Slight variations occur by service. Recruiter chain of command personnel include Army
recruiting station commanders, Marine Corps substation noncommissioned officers in charge,
and Air Force flight chiefs. Service liaisons include Army guidance counselors, Navy liaison petty
officers and classifiers, Marine Corps noncommissioned officers, and Air Force liaisons. Basic
training personnel include personnel from the Army Training Battalion, Navy Recruit Quality
Assurance Team, Marine Corps Basic Training Recruit Liaison Section, and Air Force Training
Squadron.

Source: Service and Military Entrance Processing Command interviews, briefings, and
regulations.




Applicants are required to complete the following forms used in obtaining
criminal history information: (1) Record of Military Processing—Armed
Forces of the United States (DD Form 1966), (2) Personnel Security
Questionnaire (SF-86), (3) the Police Record Check (DD Form 369),5 and
(4) the Armed Forces Fingerprint Card (DD Form 2280). These forms elicit
information on police record histories, drug and alcohol use and abuse,
financial records and delinquencies, and any juvenile arrest or criminal
activity. At this point, recruiters may request state and local background
checks.

After formal interviews with recruiters, applicants go to 1 of 65 military
entrance processing stations to take the Armed Services Vocational
Aptitude Battery test; undergo a physical exam; submit fingerprints;
participate in more interviews and briefings; and take their first oath of
enlistment, which formally enlists them as unpaid members of the
Individual Ready Reserve forces and places them into the Delayed Entry
Program.6

Entry into the Delayed Entry Program signals the beginning of the national
agency check. Most of these record checks are conducted using
descriptive data—an applicant’s name, social security number, sex, date of
birth, and race—without using fingerprints. When the checks involve
fingerprints, the services request a fingerprint verification—a comparison
of an enlistee’s fingerprints against FBI criminal records to ensure that they



5
 In this form, applicants give state and local law enforcement agencies permission to disclose
(1) police or juvenile records (including minor traffic violations) and (2) any ongoing court action.
6
 The Delayed Entry Program is intended to serve as a time for enlistees to make the necessary
arrangements in their personal lives before embarking on their new career. For example, enlistees that
are seniors in high school when they make the commitment need the extra time to get their diploma.
The program also helps the military services meet their recruiting goals and training schedules. (For
example, applicants may enlist for specific career fields that are not immediately available but offered
at some future date.) The program also prepares the enlistees for basic training.



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are from the same individual whose name was associated with a possible
arrest record identified through the descriptive data search.

Also, during the Delayed Entry Program, recruiters are in contact with the
enlistees and continue to inquire about their criminal background and any
current contact with law enforcement agencies. If recruiters discover that
enlistees have a criminal history or that they committed offenses while in
the Delayed Entry Program, the enlistees may be discharged.7 After the
Delayed Entry Program period, enlistees report again to a military
entrance processing station where they undergo a second physical
examination and more interviews and briefings and, if qualifications are
met, take a second enlistment oath (which places them on active military
duty). Subsequently, enlistees are asked again to disclose disqualifying
information when they report to basic training, which lasts from 6 to
12 weeks depending on the service. By the 6-month point in their first
terms, most enlistees have completed follow-on training in technical skills,
though the length of such training can vary widely (from a few weeks to a
year or more).

Moral waivers can be initiated at any stage of the recruiting
process—during contacts with recruiters, visits to the military entrance
processing stations, or the Delayed Entry Program. The level at which the
moral waivers are approved depends on the seriousness of the offense.
Waivers for the most serious offenses must be approved by the
commanders of the recruiting commands in the Army, the Navy, and the
Air Force and by the two regional recruiting commanders in the Marine
Corps. Applicants or enlistees that intentionally conceal any disqualifying
information may be refused enlistment at any point during the recruiting
process or, after enlisting, discharged for fraudulent enlistment.

Quality control procedures have been incorporated into the recruiting
process to ensure that recruiters do not conceal negative information
about applicants. Each service (1) has established performance and moral
character standards that recruiters must meet; (2) requires successful
completion of a recruiter training course; (3) assigns some of its most
senior recruiter personnel to military entrance processing stations;
(4) conducts periodic inspections of recruiting activities; and


7
 Based on DMDC data, 987,368 enlistees entered the Delayed Entry Program during fiscal years 1993
through 1997; 219,500 (22.2 percent) of these were discharged from the program for a variety of
reasons, including moral character. Complete information regarding the specific reasons for these
discharges was not available in the DMDC database. However, according to data provided by three of
the four services, 13,866 (8.3 percent of these three services’ total discharges of 166,420) were
discharged from the Delayed Entry Program for moral character reasons.



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                               (5) investigates all allegations relating to recruiter improprieties, which
                               include an irregularity, misconduct, or malpractice.8 Malpractice, in
                               particular, is considered by DOD to include willfully concealing
                               disqualifying factors, misleading or misinforming applicants, or violating
                               recruiting policies and procedures resulting in processing an ineligible
                               applicant. Examples of recruiter malpractice include telling the applicant
                               to not claim all dependents or to conceal bankruptcies or previous
                               criminal history. DOD data for the 7-fiscal year period ending September 30,
                               1997, show that the percentage of recruiter impropriety investigations
                               opened was less than 1 percent of the total DOD enlistments; the
                               percentage of investigations substantiated was less than 0.1 percent of
                               these enlistments.


Limitations Exist for          DOD’s checks of criminal history records are limited because (1) the
Record Checks                  majority of national agency checks are conducted without using
                               fingerprints, (2) the services have limited access to criminal history
                               information, and (3) criminal history data sources are incomplete.

Majority of National Agency    The services do not always require fingerprint verification because they do
Checks Are Conducted Without   not believe the risk is great that enlistees will enter the service with
Using Fingerprints             undisclosed serious criminal histories, and they are concerned about the
                               time and cost associated with fingerprint verification.9 However, it is the
                               services’ policy to conduct national agency checks with fingerprint
                               verifications when (1) the descriptive data check reveals a possible arrest
                               record; (2) applicants are aliens in the United States, prior service persons,
                               or individuals who have criminal record activity; or (3) any information is
                               revealed that may require more investigation for a security clearance. As a
                               result, 73 percent of the enlistees in fiscal years 1992 through 1997 were
                               checked for criminal history information at the national level using only
                               descriptive data—name, social security number, race, sex, and date of
                               birth. Fingerprint verification checks were made on the remaining
                               27 percent, accounting for 32 percent of the cases in the Army, 25 percent
                               in the Navy, 22 percent in the Marine Corps, and 20 percent in the Air
                               Force.

                               8
                                DOD considers that an “irregularity” is an intentional action to mislead or misinform a prospective
                               applicant about any aspect of processing to induce enlistments. “Misconduct,” such as sexual
                               harassment or misuse of a government vehicle, is considered willful behavior that is contrary to law,
                               regulation, or policy, but does not apply to recruiting someone into the military fraudulently as
                               malpractice impropriety does.
                               9
                                During fiscal years 1992 through 1997, the average processing time for national checks using
                               descriptive data was 10 to 14 days; fingerprint verifications took 25 to 38 days. The FBI charged DOD
                               $4.00 for national descriptive data checks and an additional $8.00 for checks requiring fingerprint
                               verification.



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                                  According to FBI officials, this fingerprint verification currently used by the
                                  services provides less certainty than a full fingerprint search, which
                                  compares an enlistee’s fingerprints against all criminal records in the FBI
                                  files. For example, fingerprint verification does not assure the services
                                  that the search results are accurate if an applicant has used an alias not
                                  recorded in the criminal records. A full fingerprint search is required to
                                  positively identify the person and detect when they have used undisclosed
                                  aliases.

Services Have Limited Access      The services do not obtain or substantiate all available criminal history
to Criminal History Information   information because federal, state, and local laws and policies limit or
                                  prohibit access.

                                  DOD   policy states that the military services shall obtain and review criminal
                                  history record information from the criminal justice system and Defense
                                  Security Service to determine whether applicants are acceptable for
                                  enlistment and for assignment to special programs.10 However, under the
                                  Security Clearance Information Act (5 U.S.C. 9101), criminal justice
                                  agencies are required to provide this information to DOD only when an
                                  individual is being investigated for eligibility for access to classified
                                  information or sensitive national security duties. These agencies, which
                                  include federal, state, and local agencies, are not required to provide this
                                  information for determining basic eligibility or suitability for enlistment
                                  (i.e., employment). DOD gains access to this information through the
                                  national agency checks, which are used for granting security clearances to
                                  enlistees.11 These national agency checks are initiated by military entrance
                                  processing station personnel for all enlistees soon after they enter the
                                  Delayed Entry Program and are employed as unpaid members of the
                                  reserves. Recruiters attempting to gain assess to this information for
                                  screening applicants prior to sending them to the military entrance
                                  processing stations, however, cannot obtain it when state and local laws
                                  and policies restrict access. The sooner applicants’ criminal records are




                                  10
                                   According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the criminal justice system includes state,
                                  county, and local law enforcement agencies; courts and clerks of courts; and other government
                                  agencies authorized to collect, maintain, and disseminate criminal history record information.
                                  11
                                    According to an Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications,
                                  and Intelligence) official, between 50 to 60 percent of all enlistees require a security clearance during
                                  their first term of enlistment. Air Force Recruiting Service officials told us that all Air Force enlistees
                                  require a security clearance.



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known to military managers, the sooner they can make informed decisions
about whether to grant moral waivers.12

Section 520a of title 10 of the U.S. Code authorizes DOD and the services to
request from state and local government criminal history record
information regarding enlistees.13 However, state and local policies
sometimes prohibit the release of information, or require fees or
fingerprints to obtain it. A telephone survey of the states by the Navy
Recruiting Command in 1996, showed that 43 states released information
on crimes committed by adults. The survey also showed that 33 states
charged fees ranging from $5 to $59 and that 18 states and the District of
Columbia required fingerprints before releasing information. The Army
has a policy to request local and state record checks for all applicants, but
will not pay these fees, and therefore, does not obtain information from
states that charge fees. The other services request these record checks
only if an applicant admits to a criminal history. Navy and Marine Corps
policy allows recruiters to pay for the checks; Air Force policy requires
applicants to obtain the checks and pay any fees associated with the
checks. Further, because the services do not take fingerprints until after
local and state record checks have been requested, the services do not
obtain information from 18 states and the District of Columbia.

Finally, recruiters frequently cannot obtain information on applicants’
juvenile criminal records. Generally, most state laws restrict access to
juvenile records. The 1996 Navy survey showed that only three states
release these records. In addition, under 18 U.S.C. 5038, federal juvenile
delinquency proceedings’ records are safeguarded from disclosure to
unauthorized persons. Specifically, federal juvenile records may not be
disclosed for any purposes other than judicial inquiries, law enforcement
needs, juvenile treatment requirements, employment in a position raising
national security concerns, and disposition questions from victims or
victims’ families. These juvenile crime records are likely to be a major
source of criminal history information for the population targeted by
military recruiters—men and women generally 17 to 21 years old.
However, according to Department of Justice officials, when juveniles are
charged with serious crimes such as murder and rape, most states try

12
 For fiscal years 1998 and 1999, DOD proposed legislative changes to give it the authority to readily
obtain access to state and local criminal history information at reasonable costs for the purpose of
accepting or retaining individuals into military service. According to one assistant secretary of defense
official, DOD plans to continue pursuing these changes because their proposals have not been enacted.
13
  Under this law, criminal history record information pertaining to any juvenile or adult arrest, citation,
or conviction describes the offense involved; age of the person involved; dates of arrest, citation, or
conviction, if any; place of the alleged offense; place of arrest and assigned court; and disposition of
the case.



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                                them as adults in criminal court. Their records, if reported by states, are
                                available in the FBI’s national criminal records system. Criminal history
                                checks, therefore, should identify many of the more serious juvenile
                                criminal offenders who are tried as adults.

                                In 1992, the Department of Justice revised its regulations (28 C.F.R.
                                20.32) to allow the FBI to collect, maintain, and provide authorized access
                                to juvenile records for juveniles tried or otherwise adjudicated in juvenile
                                proceedings. Before 1992, the FBI was prohibited from collecting juvenile
                                records with the exception of those cases when a juvenile had been
                                processed as an adult. However, according to Department of Justice
                                officials, each state determines whether its own laws permit submitting
                                these juvenile records to, or authorizing access through the FBI. Also,
                                states may elect not to record the offense, and local law enforcement may
                                decide to label the offense a status violation (truancy, for example) rather
                                than a criminal violation. As of February 1998, about 213,700 (less than
                                1 percent) of the 37,857,111 criminal subjects in the FBI’s identification
                                records system were under the age of 18.

Criminal History Data Sources   Department of Justice studies have shown for decades that criminal
Are Incomplete                  history databases are incomplete and, as discussed in the next section,
                                they have funded initiatives for improvements. The FBI considers a record
                                to be complete when all significant events, such as the arrest and
                                disposition, are available. A complete record also includes the individual’s
                                name, social security number, age, sex, fingerprints, and other physical
                                descriptive type information. According to FBI officials, completeness of
                                the FBI database is dependent upon states’ submissions of arrest
                                information and court disposition actions, and the states depend on local
                                agencies to submit information to the state repository. Reporting of this
                                information by all levels of law enforcement agencies to the next higher
                                level is voluntary and does not always occur.

                                The Department of Justice periodically requests information from the
                                states regarding the completeness of their criminal history databases. As
                                of December 31, 1997, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia,
                                the percentage of arrest records that have final dispositions recorded
                                varied greatly, ranging from 5 to 98 percent. Also, for arrests within the
                                last 5 years, three states reported that less than 30 percent of their records
                                were complete. Conversely, nine states reported that 90 percent or more
                                of their records were complete for the same period. At the federal level, as
                                of June 1998, the FBI database had a total of 76,427,487 active arrests, but
                                dispositions were on file for only 46 percent of the arrests.



                                Page 13                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                             B-281719




                             According to a Department of Justice Assistant Attorney General, state
                             criminal records systems tend to be more comprehensive than the federal
                             system. This is particularly true in the case of non-felony arrests and
                             convictions. Many nonserious offenses are either not reported to the FBI
                             or, once reported, are not retained because they fail to satisfy retention
                             criteria specified in regulation (28 C.F.R. 20.32). For example, the FBI is
                             prohibited from maintaining nonserious offenses such as drunkenness,
                             traffic violations, and vagrancy. The FBI database, however, includes
                             reports of vehicular violations, which resulted in personal injury or
                             property damage and driving while under the influence of alcohol or
                             drugs.14


Services Risk Incurring      The military services’ policies allow enlistees to begin basic and follow-on
Unnecessary Costs When       training and, in some cases, enter their first-duty stations before
Enlistees Are Sent to        investigative results of record checks are available. If the national record
                             search does not reveal that an enlistee has a criminal history, results from
Training Before Results of   the national agency check are usually received during the Delayed Entry
Record Checks Are Known      Program. If the national record search reveals that an enlistee has a
                             criminal history, the national agency check usually takes longer in order to
                             positively identify the individual, obtain records, and in some cases,
                             conduct an investigation. The results of this check may not be available
                             until after the beginning of basic training. In some cases, an enlistee may
                             be in a follow-on technical school or even at a first-duty station before the
                             results of investigative reports are received.

                             The frequency with which enlistees enter basic and follow-on training with
                             undisclosed serious criminal histories and are subsequently discharged
                             because of unfavorable record checks is unknown. The Navy, however,
                             had limited data regarding the actions taken as a result of this unfavorable
                             information. During the first 11-1/2 months of 1997, the Navy reviewed
                             2,368 enlistee cases that contained unfavorable criminal history
                             information; 389 (16.4 percent) were subsequently discharged because of
                             unfavorable information.

                             When enlistees are discharged from service after beginning basic training,
                             the services incur training costs that could have been avoided. On the
                             basis of the Navy’s 389 discharges, we estimate that the Navy incurred


                             14
                               Although the more complete state criminal history records are currently unavailable for responding
                             to noncriminal justice inquiries to the FBI system (such as those for military recruiting), these records
                             are available for criminal justice purposes under the FBI’s Interstate Identification Index that was
                             operational in 39 states as of February 1999.



                             Page 14                                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                           B-281719




                           over $2 million in unnecessary costs.15 The other services could not
                           provide data that would allow us to make comparable estimates. The
                           services risk having to absorb these costs because they are trying to avoid
                           the cost of not filling allotted training slots.

                           Only the Army conducts an in-depth interview with enlistees whose record
                           checks have not been received to determine the possibility of a concealed
                           record and assigns them control numbers before sending them to basic
                           training. Army officials told us that, with few exceptions, no one is sent to
                           a first-duty station unless the records check has been received.


                           There are several ongoing initiatives that would help DOD to improve the
New Initiatives Could      process for obtaining complete and timely criminal history information
Improve Record             and avoid enlisting and training individuals with undesirable backgrounds.
Checks, but DOD            These initiatives include more thorough background checks using full
                           fingerprint searches and credit checks, automation of security
Lacks an                   questionnaire information, a new FBI fingerprint imaging and classification
Implementation             system, and continuing efforts to improve the completeness of the
                           criminal history database. Although these initiatives cover several aspects
Strategy                   of the criminal history screening process, fall under the responsibility of
                           various organizations, and would require some changes in current policies
                           and procedures, DOD has not developed an approach for planning and
                           coordinating their implementation. As a result, it is not yet in a position to
                           take full advantage of the benefits of these initiatives.


Initiatives Are Underway   First, on January 1, 1999, DOD implemented Executive Order 12968, signed
That Could Improve DOD’s   August 4, 1995, which expands the requirements for background
Process for Obtaining      investigations for all individuals in jobs requiring a security clearance. The
                           Defense Security Service will be responsible for conducting a (1) national
Criminal Background        agency check using fingerprints; (2) local agency check, which requests
Information                local jurisdictions to provide criminal record information; and (3) credit
                           check that provides information on financial responsibility. (Prior to
                           January 1, 1999, the minimum requirement for background investigations
                           for enlistees requiring secret and confidential clearances included the


                           15
                             The Navy discharged 332 enlistees from basic training, 22 from follow-on training, and 35 from
                           first-duty stations during the first 11-1/2 months of 1997. To estimate costs incurred, we used the
                           Navy’s cost estimates for pay, food, and housing of $146 per day, clothing costs of $817, transportation
                           costs of $166 (to and from recruit training), and basic training medical examination costs of $91. For
                           the 332 enlistees separated from basic training, we used the Navy’s estimate that a recruit remains at
                           basic training an average of 25 days before being separated. We used the full 9-week (63 days) basic
                           training period to estimate the costs for the 57 enlistees that were separated during follow-on training
                           or first-duty stations.



                           Page 15                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                            B-281719




                            national agency check using only descriptive data, not fingerprints.) This
                            new requirement will increase the quality of criminal history record
                            checks for those enlistees filling jobs requiring a security clearance.

                            Second, the Defense Security Service requested that, by January 1, 1999,
                            all DOD activities exclusively use the Electronic Personnel Security
                            Questionnaire, which replaces the paper version of the SF-86. The
                            automated form allows personnel security data to be more efficiently
                            recorded, checked for completeness, and transmitted in electronic form.
                            Also, the Defense Security Service will be able to expedite its performance
                            of background investigations and efficiently store information for future
                            retrieval.

                            Third, in July 1999, the FBI plans to implement the Integrated Automated
                            Fingerprint Identification System. The FBI developed this system to
                            capture, submit, process, match, and store fingerprints in a paperless
                            environment, which will permit electronic—rather than
                            manual—fingerprint searches. With it, the FBI expects that
                            (1) electronically scanned fingerprints will be more readable—thereby
                            eliminating the delays caused by rejecting smudged fingerprints, which
                            must be resubmitted; (2) fingerprint matches will be more accurate
                            because more fingerprint detail will be taken into account; (3) the
                            turnaround time for fingerprint searches for DOD national agency checks
                            will be reduced—24 hours instead of the current average of 16 days; and
                            (4) the workload of full fingerprint searches for DOD could be processed in
                            a timely manner without a significant change to current fees.

                            Finally, during the last several years, the need to improve the quality of
                            criminal history records has been one of the major challenges facing
                            federal, state, and local criminal justice agencies. The FBI Criminal Justice
                            Information Services Division’s Strategic Plan has a goal of having at least
                            80 percent of its criminal history records complete (containing both arrest
                            and disposition information) by fiscal year 2003. Also, the Department of
                            Justice has supported three major programs since 1988 that provide
                            funding incentives to the states to improve the accuracy and completeness
                            of criminal record information. During fiscal years 1990 through 1998,
                            these programs awarded over $1.47 billion to the states.


DOD Needs to Develop a      DOD does not have a clear strategy for implementing these initiatives. First,
Strategy for Implementing   regarding the implementation of Executive Order 12968, the services have
the New Initiatives         not determined the number of enlistees that will require a security



                            Page 16                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
B-281719




clearance and, therefore, be subject to the required expanded background
checks. Currently, about 50 to 60 percent of military jobs require a security
clearance, and according to an Assistant Secretary of Defense official, the
number may increase as technology becomes more sophisticated. Also,
the services have not determined when these investigations will occur. If
the Defense Security Service initiates record checks early in the recruiting
process, the services could avoid the costs incurred when enlistees are
sent to basic training before receiving disqualifying criminal history
information.

Second, the Defense Security Service has made the new Electronic
Personnel Security Questionnaire available and provided training;
however, with the exception of the Air Force, use of the form has been
extremely limited. According to Military Entrance Processing Command
officials, the services have not used the new form because of technological
limitations. The Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command,
Control, Communications, and Intelligence) told the services that
investigations may take longer and be more costly when this new form is
not used.

Third, regarding electronic fingerprinting, although several military
entrance processing stations have tested electronic fingerprint scanners,
DOD has not determined how it will use this automated system to enhance
the quality and timeliness of their record checks. Also, DOD and the FBI
have not reached agreement regarding the options that will be available
for new services and costs that will be incurred under the FBI’s Integrated
Automated Fingerprint Identification System.

Furthermore, DOD has not formulated a coordinated approach for
integrating these initiatives into the recruiting process to address some of
the deficiencies in their record checks. The DOD officials pointed out that
the initiatives have not been implemented yet and that DOD was dependent
on the Department of Justice to make available the new fingerprint
technology and provide greater completeness of the national criminal
records database. However, DOD is responsible for and will be
implementing in 1999, the Executive Order 12968 requirements for more
thorough security clearance background investigations and the Electronic
Personnel Security Questionnaire. The services and their recruiting
commands, the Military Entrance Processing Command, and the Defense
Security Service have not yet determined how they will implement these
initiatives within their current recruiting practices or whether new
practices are needed to take full advantage of the possible benefits.



Page 17                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                      B-281719




                      The services have extensive policies and procedures for gathering
Conclusions and       self-reported criminal history information and granting moral waivers.
Recommendations       Their reliance, however, on applicant self-disclosure, completion of
                      required forms, and criminal history record checks from state, local, and
                      national criminal history databases without a full fingerprint search limits
                      the screening process and increases the risk of enlisting individuals with
                      undesirable backgrounds. Use of the Electronic Personnel Security
                      Questionnaire could minimize the time and costs associated with
                      investigations conducted as part of the Defense Security Service’s national
                      agency checks. Use of the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint
                      Identification System could facilitate the use of full fingerprint searches as
                      part of the recruiting process and make the record checks more thorough.

                      Collectively, these initiatives give DOD the opportunity to more fully obtain
                      and substantiate criminal history information in a timely manner, avoid
                      enlisting individuals with undesirable backgrounds, and eliminate the need
                      to send enlistees to training before all criminal history information is
                      available. Implementing these initiatives would also enable DOD to benefit
                      from having more complete criminal history information available as a
                      result of the database improvements funded by the Department of Justice.
                      However, DOD has not determined how it will integrate these initiatives
                      into its current criminal history screening process and, therefore, has not
                      put itself in a position to take full advantage of them. Because these
                      initiatives cover several aspects of the screening process, fall under the
                      responsibility of various organizations, and represent some changes in
                      current policies and procedures, it is essential that DOD carefully plan and
                      coordinate its efforts to implement them. Therefore, we recommend that
                      the Secretary of Defense take the following actions:

                  •   Develop and monitor a DOD-wide plan to use the initiatives cited in this
                      report. Such a plan should, at a minimum, incorporate the benefits of using
                      the Defense Security Service’s Electronic Personnel Security
                      Questionnaire and the FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint
                      Identification System. Additionally, the plan should address the integration
                      of these two initiatives with the expanded security clearance background
                      investigation requirements contained in Executive Order 12968. The plan
                      should also include specific time frames and budget requirements for
                      implementation.
                  •   Require all national agency checks for enlistment into the military services
                      to be based on a full fingerprint search to (1) reduce the risks associated
                      with enlisting individuals who have been convicted of the more serious




                      Page 18                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                         B-281719




                         misdemeanors and felonies and (2) identify individuals who have used
                         aliases.
                     •   Direct the services, after the initiatives available in 1999 are in use, to end
                         their practices of sending enlistees to training and to first-duty stations
                         without having all available criminal history information.


                         In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD and the Department of Justice
Agency Comments          generally concurred with the report findings and recommendations, and
and Our Evaluation       emphasized several areas of concern.

                         DOD   described its plans to act on the report recommendations as follows:

                     •   To develop and monitor a DOD-wide plan to use the initiatives cited in this
                         report, DOD stated that the Defense Accession Data Systems Integration
                         Working Group, chaired by the Deputy Director of Operations, Military
                         Entrance Processing Command, has identified the need to establish a
                         subgroup led by the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
                         (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) to address these
                         initiatives and develop a DOD-wide plan. The Working Group discussed
                         plans for the subgroup at its quarterly meeting in January 1999.
                     •   To reduce the risks associated with enlisting individuals who have been
                         convicted of the more serious misdemeanors and felonies, and to identify
                         individuals who have used aliases, DOD stated that it will require a full
                         fingerprint search for all potential enlistees. It noted, however, that
                         implementation will depend upon availability of automated fingerprint
                         scanners at the military entrance processing stations.
                     •   Regarding the services’ practices of sending enlistees to training and
                         first-duty stations without having all available criminal history
                         information, DOD stated that before directing such a change, a system
                         needs to be developed to ensure a prompt turnaround time and allow the
                         flexibility to process applicants without completed criminal history checks
                         as exceptions to policy when criminal history information is delayed. DOD
                         emphasized that enlistment screening will be improved with a system that
                         ensures prompt availability of all applicant criminal history information,
                         including that from state and local law enforcement agencies, including
                         juvenile records.

                         DOD  noted that our report does not fully address its need for timely access
                         to state and local criminal information at a reasonable cost. It noted that
                         many records of youth crime do not reach national databases. DOD
                         commented that the absence of complete data makes it difficult to



                         Page 19                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
              B-281719




              evaluate enlistment waiver rates because the services cannot waive
              offenses they cannot identify. The Department of Justice also stated that
              DOD needs to obtain juvenile records presently protected under existing
              state laws. We agree that juvenile criminal records may contain
              information that would provide DOD with a more complete assessment of
              the criminal histories of applicants and our report generally describes
              limitations on access beginning on page 12. However, evaluating the pros
              and cons of access to juvenile records was beyond the scope of our
              review, and we clarified the Scope and Methodology section accordingly.

              The Department of Justice also emphasized that fingerprint verification
              currently used by the military services is not to be confused with, nor is it
              a substitute for, positive identification by a full fingerprint search. It
              believes that only through a full fingerprint search can the military be
              assured that enlistees have not fraudulently listed their identities. The
              Department of Justice provided additional information to support its views
              on the importance of full fingerprint searches, which our report
              recommends. We agree with the distinction between fingerprint
              verification and full fingerprint searches and modified the report to clarify
              this point.

              DOD’s and the Department of Justice’s comments are presented in their
              entirety in appendixes II and III, respectively. DOD and the Department of
              Justice also provided technical comments, which we have incorporated as
              appropriate.


              This review focused on DOD’s policies and procedures for screening
Scope and     criminal history information for enlistees, including national agency
Methodology   checks, and for granting moral character waivers. To determine the extent
              to which relevant criminal history information on potential enlistees is
              available to the DOD military services, we reviewed the Air Force, the
              Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the U.S. Military Entrance
              Processing Command policy guidance and regulations and discussed them
              with recruiting command and U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command
              officials. Also, we discussed with these officials the internal control and
              quality assurance procedures used to monitor screening procedures. We
              reviewed applicants’ enlistment files at three military entrance processing
              stations to determine whether screening procedures had been followed.

              To identify federal government initiatives that could improve the process
              of obtaining criminal history information, we interviewed DOD and



              Page 20                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
    B-281719




    Department of Justice officials and discussed the new requirements for
    security clearances, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification
    System, automation of security questionnaire information, and continuing
    efforts to improve the completeness of the criminal history database.

    Regarding the completeness of and access to state and local records, we
    obtained information from DOD and Department of Justice officials. We did
    not obtain information directly from state and local officials regarding
    their laws and policies pertaining to DOD’s access to their criminal history
    records. Also, we did not assess the pros and cons of restricted access to
    juvenile criminal history records.

    To supplement our objectives, we analyzed DMDC enlistment and waiver
    data for fiscal years 1990 through 1997 to determine the extent to which
    the services granted moral waivers and the type of moral waivers
    approved. To determine the reasons and rates of separations for enlistees
    granted moral waivers compared with those without moral waivers, we
    analyzed DMDC separation data for enlistees entering the military in fiscal
    years 1990 through 1993 who separated within their first 4 years of service.
    Fiscal years 1990 through 1993 were the most recent years for which
    complete separation data were available.

    We performed our work at the following DOD, service, and Department of
    Justice locations:

•   Directorate for Accession Policy, Office of the Assistant Secretary of
    Defense, Force Management Policy, Washington, D.C.;
•   Security Directorate, Security and Information Operations, Office of the
    Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and
    Intelligence), Washington, D.C.; and Defense Security Service, Baltimore,
    Maryland;
•   U.S. Army Recruiting Command, Ft. Knox, Kentucky; Navy Recruiting
    Command, Arlington, Virginia; Marine Corps Recruiting Command,
    Arlington, Virginia; and Air Force Recruiting Service, Randolph Air Force
    Base, San Antonio, Texas;
•   U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command, North Chicago, Illinois;
    Military Entrance Processing Station, San Antonio, Texas; Military
    Entrance Processing Station, Chicago, Illinois; and Military Entrance
    Processing Station, Richmond, Virginia; and
•   FBI, Washington, D.C.; FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division,
    Clarksburg, West Virginia; Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice




    Page 21                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
B-281719




Statistics and Bureau of Justice Assistance, Washington, D.C.; and Office
of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Washington, D.C.

We conducted our review from October 1997 to January 1999 in
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards


We are sending copies of this report to the Secretaries of Defense, the
Army, the Navy, and the Air Force, and the Commandant of the Marine
Corps. We are also sending copies to the U.S. Attorney General; the
Director, FBI; the Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention; and the Administrator, Office of Justice Programs. We will
make copies available to others upon request. Please contact me at
(202) 512-5140 if you or your staff have any questions concerning this
report. Major contributors to this report are listed in appendix IV.




Mark E. Gebicke
Director, Military Operations
  and Capabilities Issues




Page 22                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Page 23   GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Contents



Letter                                                                                               1


Appendix I                                                                                          26
                        Trends in Granting Moral Waivers                                            26
Analysis of Moral       Comparison of Separation Reasons for Enlistees With and                     29
Waiver Data               Without Moral Waivers


Appendix II                                                                                         36
Comments From the
Department of
Defense
Appendix III                                                                                        39
Comments From the
U.S. Department of
Justice
Appendix IV                                                                                         42
Major Contributors to
This Report
Related GAO Products                                                                                44


Tables                  Table I.1: Number and Percentage of Enlistees Granted Moral                 27
                          Waivers
                        Table I.2: Type, Number, and Percentage of Moral Waivers                    28
                          Granted to Enlistees DOD-wide
                        Table I.3: DOD-wide Separation Rates for Misconduct by Type of              34
                          Moral Waiver


Figures                 Figure 1: Level of Offenses and Military Service Criteria for                4
                          Requiring Moral Waivers
                        Figure 2: Recruiting Process and Criminal History Screening                  6
                          Tools
                        Figure 3: Interviews and Briefings for Gathering Criminal History            7
                          Information




                        Page 24                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Contents




Figure I.1: Reasons and Rates for DOD-wide Separations for                   30
  Individuals Enlisting During Fiscal Years 1990-93 and Separating
  Within Their First 4 Years of Service
Figure I.2: Reasons and Rates for DOD-wide Separations for                   32
  Enlistees With and Without a Moral Waiver
Figure I.3: Time of DOD-wide Separations for Misconduct and                  35
  Substandard Performance Reasons for Enlistees With and
  Without a Moral Waiver




Abbreviations

DMDC       Defense Manpower Data Center
DOD        Department of Defense
FBI        Federal Bureau of Investigation


Page 25                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix I

Analysis of Moral Waiver Data


                     To supplement the overall objectives of this review, we analyzed Defense
                     Manpower Data Center (DMDC) enlistment and separation data. Our
                     objectives were to (1) determine how often and for what reasons the
                     services granted moral waivers to enlistees and (2) compare the reasons
                     for separation for those enlistees who entered the services with and
                     without moral waivers. For sound analyses, we needed high-quality data
                     that were accurate, reliable, and comparable. DMDC data, however, are of
                     limited quality because enlistees may have entered military service
                     without their past criminal history records being discovered and,
                     therefore, entered without a moral waiver that should have been granted.
                     Also, the services and the Military Entrance Processing Command apply
                     moral waiver codes inconsistently, and the services differ in the way they
                     use separation codes.1 Nonetheless, until the Department of Defense (DOD)
                     completes its database improvements to standardize definitions and
                     coding structures for enlistment and separation data,2 the DMDC data are
                     the best available for describing DOD’s experiences with granting moral
                     waivers.

                     Given these data limitations, however, the following analyses generally
                     indicate that the number and percentage of new active duty enlistees3
                     granted moral waivers has consistently decreased during the 8-year period
                     ending fiscal year 1997. Furthermore, during the first 4 years of service,
                     enlistees granted moral waivers in fiscal years 1990 through 1993 generally
                     separated from military service for similar reasons and at comparable
                     rates to those enlistees who were not granted moral waivers.


                     Table I.1 shows the number and percentage of enlistees granted moral
Trends in Granting   waivers for fiscal years 1990 through 1997 for each service and DOD-wide.
Moral Waivers

                     1
                      To assess data quality, we reviewed DMDC documentation and our previous reports that used DMDC
                     data, performed tests of ranges and frequencies to identify missing data and unusable data elements,
                     and discussed service data with service recruiting command officials for corroboration and to
                     determine data anomalies. We could not determine, however, the extent to which data quality
                     problems affected the results of our analyses.
                     2
                      The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1998 (P.L. 105-85) directed DOD to improve
                     the system of pre-enlistment waivers and separation codes, which was recommended by us. Our
                     analyses for this report reaffirm the need for a consistent DOD-wide database that contains reasons for
                     separation and enlistment waiver data. The services and DMDC recognize the need for these
                     improvements and plan to implement waiver revisions in 1999 to make these data more complete and
                     consistent.
                     3
                      The data presented in this appendix do not include enlistees discharged from the Delayed Entry
                     Program before taking the oath for active duty.



                     Page 26                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                                           Appendix I
                                           Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Table I.1: Number and Percentage of Enlistees Granted Moral Waivers (fiscal years 1990-97)
Service                 1990         1991          1992         1993           1994                       1995             1996             1997
Army                   5,989         5,648            5,186           4,301             3,304            3,203            2,260            2,394
(Percentage of
Army
enlistments)             (6.7)         (7.2)           (6.7)            (5.6)             (4.9)            (5.1)            (3.1)            (2.9)
Navy                  11,890         9,016            7,244           8,028             5,759            6,248            7,323            6,554
(Percentage of
Navy
enlistments)            (18.6)        (18.2)          (16.7)           (16.2)           (16.2)           (17.3)            (18.8)           (14.7)
Marine Corps          20,451        17,610           15,791          10,162             6,997            5,205            4,076            3,992
(Percentage of
Marine Corps
enlistments)            (61.2)        (59.2)          (49.7)           (29.3)           (22.0)           (16.2)            (12.4)           (11.7)
Air Force                712           850            1,672           2,269             1,883            2,093            1,945            1,868
(Percentage of
Air Force
enlistments)             (2.0)         (2.9)           (4.8)            (7.2)             (6.2)            (6.7)            (6.3)            (6.2)
DOD waivers           39,042        33,124           29,893          24,760           17,943           16,749            15,604           14,808
DOD
enlistments          222,567       187,156        187,146           193,029          164,921          161,707          175,466          190,464
(Percentage of
DOD
enlistments)            (17.5)        (17.7)          (16.0)           (12.8)           (10.9)           (10.4)             (8.9)            (7.8)
                                           Note: The services differ in the criteria they use for granting moral waivers. For example, the Army
                                           is the only service that considers preservice drug or alcohol abuse a medical, not a moral
                                           character, issue.

                                           Source: GAO’s analysis of DMDC data.



                                           Table I.2 shows the types, number, and percentages of moral waivers
                                           granted to enlistees DOD-wide for fiscal years 1990 through 1997. As shown,
                                           the services are granting fewer moral waivers in all categories. Although
                                           felony and non-minor misdemeanor waivers increased as a percentage of
                                           total waivers granted over the period (from 2 to 5 percent for felonies and
                                           33 to 58 percent for non-minor misdemeanors), the actual number of these
                                           waivers granted decreased from 857 to 705 for felonies and from 12,858 to
                                           8,542 for non-minor misdemeanors.




                                           Page 27                                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                                             Appendix I
                                             Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Table I.2: Type, Number, and Percentage of Moral Waivers Granted to Enlistees DOD-wide (fiscal years 1990-97)
                                                                                                                                               Total
Type of moral waiver         1990      1991          1992          1993          1994           1995          1996          1997         (1990-1997)
Felony                        857       913            776           738           593           617            725           705                5,924
                               2.2%      2.8%           2.6%          3.0%          3.3%          3.7%           4.6%          4.8%                 3.1%
Non-minor                   12,858    11,077       10,343        12,027          8,889         8,845         8,043          8,542               80,624
misdemeanor                   32.9%     33.4%        34.6%         48.6%          49.5%         52.8%         51.5%          57.7%                42.0%
Preservice drug and         16,401    12,605       10,396         7,504          5,754         5,119         4,964          3,442               66,185
alcohol                       42.0%     38.1%        34.8%         30.3%          32.1%         30.6%         31.8%          23.2%                34.5%
Minor traffic/non-traffic   8,446     8,061         7,995         4,323          2,559         1,981         1,560          1,709               36,634
                             21.6%     24.3%         26.7%         17.5%          14.3%         11.8%         10.0%          11.5%                19.1%
Other/unknown                 480       468            383           168           148           187            312           410                2,556
                               1.2%      1.4%           1.3%          0.7%          0.8%          1.1%           2.0%          2.8%                 1.3%
                                             Source: GAO’s analysis of DMDC data.



                                             The services could not explain the reasons for these trends. However, we
                                             were told that the following service policy changes in waiver criteria
                                             account for some, but not all of the changes:

                                         •   In July 1994, the Marine Corps, which had the largest decrease, loosened
                                             its requirements for minor traffic offense criteria from “more than three”
                                             to “more than four.” At the same time, preservice drug abuse criteria were
                                             tightened to include any marijuana experimentation or use.
                                         •   In fiscal year 1995, the Army revised its moral waiver criterion for
                                             non-minor misdemeanors from one offense to two.
                                         •   The Navy’s granting of moral waivers remained fairly constant until fiscal
                                             year 1997. Prior to 1997, the Navy waivers included the moral waivers
                                             granted for both enlistment and special programs such as advanced
                                             electronics and nuclear fields, which required more stringent moral
                                             character standards. In fiscal year 1997, however, the Navy began to report
                                             enlistment and program moral waivers separately.
                                         •   The Air Force’s granting of moral waivers increased during the 8-year
                                             period. Air Force officials could not specify the reasons for this increase,
                                             but suggested the following factors: (1) fluctuations in Air Force moral
                                             waiver criteria for minor traffic violations; (2) changing attitudes of law
                                             enforcement and judicial communities, such as getting tough on crime,
                                             greater use of adverse adjudications, and community service; and
                                             (3) decreasing trends in Air Force enlistments.4

                                             4
                                              Air Force officials noted that their enlistments declined over the 8-year period from a high of 36,090 in
                                             fiscal year 1990 to 30,310 in fiscal year 1997; as their granting of moral waivers to deserving individuals
                                             continued over this period of declining enlistments, the percentage of moral waivers granted
                                             increased.



                                             Page 28                                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                         Appendix I
                         Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




                         Of the enlistees beginning service during fiscal years 1990 through 1993
Comparison of            (the most recent years for which most separation data are available),
Separation Reasons       573,160 separated within their first 4 years of service for the reasons
for Enlistees With and   shown in figure I.1.5 Of these separations, the 93,632 enlistees granted
                         moral waivers separated from the enlisted force within 4 years of service
Without Moral            for generally the same reasons and at similar rates as the 479,528 who
Waivers                  enlisted without moral waivers.6




                         5
                          In collaboration with officials in the office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Military Personnel
                         Policy, we grouped the DMDC’s 72 interservice separation codes into several broad categories to
                         facilitate our analyses.
                         6
                          At the time of our review, fiscal year 1993 was the most recent year for which complete separation
                         data was available because 4 years is the typical enlistment commitment term; those enlisted during
                         fiscal years 1994 through 1997 could not have completed their first 4-year term of service. To provide a
                         complete and consistent analysis across the 4 fiscal years, we further focused our analysis on
                         separations that occurred during the first 4 years of service—the time period during which most
                         enlistees will have separated.



                         Page 29                                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                                                      Appendix I
                                                      Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Figure I.1: Reasons and Rates for DOD-wide Separations for Individuals Enlisting During Fiscal Years 1990-93 and
Separating Within Their First 4 Years of Service
                                                 Released       OCS
                                                             7.5%       0.9%
                                                                           Officer Candidate School (OCS) 0.9% (5,171)
                                            Released 7.5% (42,953)

                           Hardship/Death/Other    6.6%
                      Hardship/death/other 6.6% (37,716)                                            Exp. Termenlistment
                                                                                                              of Service
                                                                                                    Completed           term 26.7%
                                                                                                                              26.7% (153,302)




                 Medical/Physical
              Medical/physical        16.6%
                               16.6% (95,075)




     Substandard performance 11.1% (63,609)
                                                                                                     Completed enlistment term
                                                                                                      Imm. Reenlistment        and reenlisted
                                                                                                                             16.1%
                         Substd. Performance 11.1%                                                   16.1% (92,144)


                                              Misconduct 14.5% (83,190)
                                                          Misconduct 14.5%

                                                             DOD-wide Separations
                                                                   573,160
                     Released 7.8%     OCS 1.0%

              Hardship
              6.7%                                            Completed enlistment
                                                              25.9%
                                                                                                  Released 6.1% OCS 0.6%
                                                                                           Hardship 6.0%
                                                                                                                            Completed enlistment 31.1%
    Medical
    16.3%                                                                            Medical 17.9%




                                                                                           Substandard                      Reenlisted 9.3%
                                                               Reenlisted 17.4%      performance 8.5%
       Substandard
performance 11.6%                                                                                               Misconduct 20.6%


                                       Misconduct 13.3%


                             Separated Enlistees                                                          Separated Enlistees
                          Not Granted Moral Waivers                                                      Granted Moral Waivers
                                   479,528                                                                      93,632

        Categories used in our analysis
                                                                                                                                   (Figure notes on next page)


                                                      Page 30                                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix I
Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Notes: These charts depict the population of enlistees who entered military service in fiscal
years 1990 through 1993 and separated or reenlisted within their first 4 years of service.

OCS—Officer Candidate School

Source: GAO’s analysis of DMDC data.




Regarding the principal positive reasons for separating, 31 percent of
those granted a moral waiver completed their term and left the service
compared with 26 percent of those without a moral waiver. However, as
shown in figure I.2, an additional 17 percent of those without a moral
waiver not only completed their initial term but also immediately
reenlisted compared with 9 percent of those with a moral waiver.7




7
 The services decide which members are eligible or ineligible to reenlist and which may reenlist with a
waiver. Generally, enlistees granted moral waivers have a similar rate of reenlistment eligibility as
those without moral waivers. For example, in the Army, 42 percent of those without a moral waiver
were eligible for reenlistment compared with 38 percent of those with a moral waiver. On the other
hand, in the Air Force, 57 percent of those without a moral waiver were eligible for reenlistment
compared with 60 percent of those with a moral waiver.



Page 31                                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                                          Appendix I
                                          Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Figure I.2: Reasons and Rates for DOD-wide Separations for Enlistees With and Without a Moral Waiver (fiscal years
1990-93) (excludes medical, hardship, and other)
Percent
100



 80




 60




 40
                       31.1
             25.9
                                                                                   20.6
 20                                    17.4
                                                                      13.3
                                                                                                       11.6
                                                    9.3                                                             8.5

           124,221   29,081           83,447     8,697               63,879      19,311               55,658       7,951
  0
           Completed term               Reenlisted                     Misconduct                 Substandard
                                                                                                Substandard    perf.
                                                                                                            performance

                                      Without moral waiver          With moral waiver


                                          Note: This chart depicts the population of enlistees who entered military service in fiscal
                                          years 1990 through 1993 and separated or reenlisted within their first 4 years of service.

                                          Source: GAO’s analysis of DMDC data.




                                          For those leaving the service before completing their initial terms,
                                          enlistees not granted a moral waiver left more often for substandard
                                          performance reasons (such as failure to meet minimum qualifications and
                                          unsatisfactory performance), and enlistees granted moral waivers left




                                          Page 32                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix I
Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




more often for misconduct reasons.8 Of the 16 misconduct reasons, drugs
and fraudulent enlistment accounted for about two-thirds of the
7.3 percentage point difference between separating enlistees with and
without moral waivers;9 the two groups differed very little in the other 14
misconduct reasons. Further, as shown in table I.3, enlistees with moral
waivers for minor traffic and minor non-traffic offenses and preservice
drug and alcohol abuse separated more often for drugs, fraudulent entry,
alcoholism, and court martial than those enlisted with no moral waiver.
Enlistees that entered the services with non-minor (serious) misdemeanor
waivers generally separated at similar rates and for the same misconduct
reasons (except for drugs and alcoholism) as those without waivers.
Enlistees with felony waivers separated at a higher rate for fraudulent
entry, court martial, and alcoholism.




8
 The misconduct category (83,190) included 16 different reasons. The five reasons that accounted for
68.7 percent of this category were commission of a serious offense (18.1%), drugs (16.0), discreditable
incidents (13.7%), fraudulent entry (10.7%), and good of the service in lieu of court martial (10.2%). The
substandard performance category (63,609) included 11 different reasons. The three reasons that
accounted for 92.1 percent of this category were trainee discharge/entry level performance and
conduct (54.0%), expeditious discharge/unsatisfactory performance (21.6%), and failure to meet
minimum qualifications for retention (16.5%).
9
 Fraudulent enlistment is intentional concealment of any disqualifying information. The database does
not specify the type of information concealed, such as criminal backgrounds or medical and
psychological conditions.


Page 33                                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                                               Appendix I
                                               Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Table I.3: DOD-wide Separation Rates for Misconduct by Type of Moral Waiver (fiscal years 1990-93)
                                                                                  Type of moral waiver
                                                                        Minor traffic         Preservice
                                                  Without moral          and minor          drug/alcohol          Non-minor
Reason for separation                                    waiver          non-traffic              abuse        misdemeanor                  Felony
Drugs                                                        9,094                591                1,780               1,700                   85
                                                            14.2%               17.9%               25.3%               20.8%                17.4%
Fraudulent enlistment                                       5,753                 594                1,670                 773                 101
                                                            9.0%                17.9%               23.7%                 9.5%               20.7%
Commission of a serious offense                            12,225                 331                 636                1,737                      40
                                                           19.1%                10.0%                9.0%               21.2%                    8.2%
Discreditable incidents                                      8,959                416                 775                1,132                   69
                                                            14.0%               12.6%               11.0%               13.8%                14.1%
Good of the service in lieu of court martial                 6,857                299                 512                  724                      41
                                                            10.7%                9.0%                7.3%                 8.9%                   8.4%
Alcoholism                                                  3,271                 242                 487                  706                      35
                                                            5.1%                 7.3%                6.9%                 8.6%                   7.2%
Court martial                                               1,707                 243                 464                  166                   58
                                                            2.7%                 7.3%                6.6%                 2.0%               11.9%
Pattern of minor disciplinary infractions                   5,636                 293                 353                  246                      30
                                                            8.8%                 8.9%                5.0%                 3.0%                   6.1%
Dropped for imprisonment                                      984                   15                  2                  103                      2
                                                             1.5%                0.5%                0.0%                 1.3%                   0.4%
Civil court conviction                                        505                   27                  29                   72                    0
                                                             0.8%                0.8%                0.4%                 0.9%                    0%
All other misconduct reasons                                 8,888                259                 332                 819                       27
                                                            13.9%                7.8%                4.7%               10.0%                    5.5%
                                               Note: Bold numbers indicate that those enlistees with moral waivers in that category had a
                                               separation rate that was at least 25 percent greater than those without moral waivers. Shaded
                                               numbers indicate that those enlistees with moral waivers in that category had a separation rate
                                               that was at least 25 percent less than those without moral waivers.

                                               Source: GAO’s analysis of DMDC data.



                                               In addition, figure I.3 shows that enlistees granted moral waivers leave at
                                               generally the same point (first year, for example) during their first
                                               enlistment for misconduct and substandard performance as those without
                                               moral waivers.




                                               Page 34                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                                           Appendix I
                                           Analysis of Moral Waiver Data




Figure I.3: Time of DOD-wide Separations for Misconduct and Substandard Performance Reasons for Enlistees With and
Without a Moral Waiver (fiscal years 1990-93)

Misconduct reasons
Percent
100


 80


 60


 40


 20


  0
  1st year                2nd year                     3rd year                        4th year

                        Without moral waiver With moral waiver


Substandard performance reasons
Percent
100


 80


 60


 40


 20


  0
  1st year                2nd year                    3rd year                        4th year

                        Without moral waiver With moral waiver




                                           Note: This chart depicts the population of enlistees who entered military service in fiscal
                                           years 1990 through 1993 and separated or reenlisted within their first 4 years of service.

                                           Source: GAO’s analysis of DMDC data.




                                           Page 35                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix II

Comments From the Department of Defense




              Page 36        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                    Appendix II
                    Comments From the Department of Defense




Now on p. 18.




Now on pp. 18-19.




                    Page 37                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
                Appendix II
                Comments From the Department of Defense




Now on p. 19.




                Page 38                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix III

Comments From the U.S. Department of
Justice




               Page 39        GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix III
Comments From the U.S. Department of
Justice




Page 40                                GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix III
Comments From the U.S. Department of
Justice




Page 41                                GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Appendix IV

Major Contributors to This Report


                        Carol Schuster
National Security and   Christine Fossett
International Affairs
Division, Washington,
D.C.
                        Dudley Roache
Norfolk Field Office    Bradley Simpson
                        Paul Gvoth
                        Patty Lentini




                        Page 42             GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Page 43   GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
Related GAO Products


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              Military Attrition: DOD Needs to Better Analyze Reasons for Separation and
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(703226)      Page 44                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-53 Military Recruiting
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