Millions Being Spent To Apprehend Military Deserters, Most of Whom Are Discharged as Unqualified for Retention

FPCD-77-16: Published: Jan 31, 1977. Publicly Released: Jan 31, 1977.

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The policy of apprehending military deserters during peacetime in an all volunteer force needs reexamining. Military representatives say treating deserters as criminals has a deterring effect.

Most deserters do not become useful soldiers, being unable or unwilling to meet the standards demanded, and most are eventually discharged as unfit. There is no verifiable evidence that soldiers who do not desert are discouraged from doing so because of fear of becoming a military criminal. Such fear may prevent some potential deserters, but many others may consider the possible discharge to be a reward rather than a punishment. The services have the authority to separate deserters in absentia. The number of deserters, meaning individuals who were absent without leave, more than 30 days, declined in fiscal year 1976. It cost $58 million to apprehend and process deserters during the last 2 years, not including costs incurred for related courts-martial, confinement, separation, and pay of the deserters. Costs are being incurred to apprehend individuals who surrender voluntarily.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The deserters apprehension policy should be reexamined and less costly alternatives to the present practices should be found. Perhaps the apprehension of deserters should be stopped, except where the deserter is wanted in connection with another crime, and the deserter should be discharged in absentia; or perhaps apprehension efforts should not be undertaken until the deserter has been gone long enough to indicate that a voluntary return in not likely.

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