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Military Recruiting: New Initiatives Could Improve Criminal History Screening

NSIAD-99-53 Published: Feb 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1999.
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) processes for investigating military enlistees' criminal history, focusing on: (1) the extent to which relevant criminal history information on potential enlistees is available to the military services; and (2) federal government initiatives that could improve the process of obtaining criminal history information.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation'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 timeframes and budget requirements for implementation.
Closed – Implemented
Assistant Secretary of Defense (Command, Control, Communications, and Intelligence) has developed a draft strategic plan that incorporates these and other initiatives to address personnel security functions overall. The Electronic Personnel Security Questionnaire and automated fingerprints are being used by the Recruiting Command. Also, the expanded security clearance background requirements have been implemented with two of the services having the investigations conducted for all recruits so that they are able to go directly into positions requiring clearances.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should 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 more serious misdemeanors and felonies; and (2) identify individuals who have used aliases.
Closed – Implemented
The automated fingerprint scanners that are needed for accomplishing full fingerprint searches have been installed in all 65 military entrance processing stations. This has facilitated obtaining full fingerprint searches in a timely manner.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should 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.
Closed – Implemented
DOD now uses digitized fingerprint checks for enlisted recruits, which helps to expedite checking criminal history information. Also, the Defense Security Service has taken steps to improve its timeliness in processing background checks. With these processes in place, DOD is committed to ensuring that the services do not send recruits to units without first having all available criminal history information.

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CriminalsFingerprintsData integrityEnlisted personnelIdentity verificationIntegrated automated fingerprint identification systemLaw enforcement information systemsMilitary recruitingImmigration waiversU.S. Navy