Military Recruiting:

Clarified Reporting Requirements and Increased Transparency Could Strengthen Oversight over Recruiter Irregularities

GAO-10-254: Published: Jan 28, 2010. Publicly Released: Jan 28, 2010.

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To sustain a viable military force, the Department of Defense (DOD) depends on recruiting several hundred thousand qualified individuals into the military each year. The service components rely on their recruiters to act with the utmost integrity because even a single incident of wrongdoing on the part of a recruiter--a recruiter irregularity--can adversely affect the service components' ability to recruit qualified individuals. GAO was asked to (1) analyze data on reported cases of recruiter irregularities across the service components, (2) review the extent to which the service components have guidance and procedures to address recruiter irregularities, and (3) review the extent to which the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has oversight over recruiter irregularities. GAO analyzed the data on recruiter irregularities reported to OSD by the service components; reviewed the service components' recruiter irregularity case files; examined relevant guidance and procedures from the service components; and interviewed service components' recruiting command personnel, recruiters, and OSD officials.

From fiscal year 2006 through 2008, the total number of substantiated cases of recruiter irregularities across the service components represented a small percentage of overall accessions (i.e., number of individuals entering military service), and the service components have taken various actions against the recruiters responsible for these irregularities. Specifically, the number of substantiated cases of recruiter irregularities as a percentage of overall accessions was 0.26 percent in fiscal year 2006, 0.22 percent in fiscal year 2007, and 0.18 percent in fiscal year 2008. The most common types of recruiter irregularity reported involved concealment or falsification of documents or information, sexual misconduct, and quality control measures (e.g., valid parental signatures). The action most commonly applied against recruiters who committed irregularities varied by service component. Removal from recruiting was the most commonly applied action in the Marine Corps while adverse administrative action (e.g., a letter of reprimand in the recruiter's personnel file) was most commonly applied in the Army. All service components have guidance and procedures on addressing recruiter irregularities and have improved oversight over them, but the manner in which data on recruiter irregularities are shared within the service components varied. Although some differences exist, the service components are similar in how they identify, investigate, and adjudicate recruiter irregularities. In addition, the service components have taken steps to identify and prevent recruiter irregularities, including establishing quality control checks to help identify recruiter irregularities and providing training for recruiters to help prevent recruiter irregularities. However, in most service components, not all levels of command have regular access to information on recruiter irregularities that occur. Without regular access to information, commanders may not be able to take full advantage of servicewide recruiter irregularity data and opportunities to learn from their peers. Although OSD has implemented requirements for the service components to regularly report on recruiter irregularities, it does not have complete oversight over the recruiter irregularities that occur. In December 2006, OSD issued a memorandum for the service components on tracking and reporting recruiter irregularities, and the service components have been providing recruiter irregularity data to OSD. However, because some of the reporting requirements lack clarity, the service components do not interpret the reporting requirements in the same way. Further, the data provided to OSD by the National Guard are incomplete and the relevant offices within the National Guard Bureau do not provide appropriate caveats regarding these data, such as including information on the States and Territories that did not submit recruiter irregularity data. Unless OSD clarifies the reporting requirements in its memorandum and directs the service components to provide transparency in the data they report, it will be unable to maintain complete oversight over the extent to which recruiter irregularities are occurring and make determinations on whether corrective action is needed.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to direct the relevant offices within the National Guard Bureau to adjust their reporting procedures in ways that will provide transparency in the data reported to OSD and any limitations on the data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) reported that GAO findings prompted OSD to proactively and consistently work with the National Guard to identify and address any problems with the data. Additionally, OSD has provided training and assistance to the National Guard Bureau personnel responsible for collecting and consolidating data on recruiter irregularities from States and Territories to help improve the overall quality of the data, according to OSD official. For example, OSD recently assisted the National Guard Bureau with the development of a template with instructions and definitions for States and Territories to consistently and uniformly report their recruiter irregularity data. Such efforts help improve the quality of recruiter irregularity data and enable OSD to receive a complete picture of recruiter irregularities that are occurring.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to complete and issue the instruction on tracking and reporting data on recruiter irregularities to clarify the requirements for the types of recruiter irregularities to be reported and the placement of recruiter rregularity cases and actions taken into reporting categories.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On March 26, 2013, the Department of Defense issued its Instruction 1304.32, Military Services Recruiting Related Reports, which contains guidance on tracking and reporting recruiter irregularities by service components. The guidance provides specific definitions of recruiter irregularities and disposition categories for the service components to use, as well as a template to use in submitting reports of recruiter irregularities to the Office of the Secretary of Defense on a semiannual basis.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army and Navy to identify mechanisms for the regular sharing of the recruiter irregularity data throughout all levels of command.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: An official from the Office of the Secretary of Defense responsible for sharing consolidated recruiter irregularity reports with the military services indicated that the report to be released in August 2013 will include language encouraging the services to appropriately share the data to help improve awareness and to identify deficiencies and areas requiring training.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to include the appropriate disclosures concerning data limitations in the recruiter irregularity reports that OSD produces on the basis of the National Guard data for the Congress and others.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) indicated that since the issuance of the GAO report GAO-10-254 in January 2010, the Congress has not asked DOD for a full report on recruiter irregularities, although Congress asked for data on a subset of cases pertaining to sexual misconduct by recruiters. According to an official from the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), the information provided in response to this congressional inquiry did not cite any data limitations because, as the OSD official stated, the department did not see those as relevant in the context of the limited data requested.

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