Waxman Requests Pentagon Documents on Recruitment

By Daniel W. Reilly

The Politico

Monday 21 April 2008

On Monday, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) asked the Pentagon to turn over materials related to the recent increase in the number of personnel conduct waivers. These allow citizens with previous felony convictions to still enlist in the Armed Forces.

Waxman sent a letter to Under Secretary of Defense David Chu asking for any documents related to the increase in waivers. Additionally, he asked for any data or studies on the impact the enlistment of these individuals has had on the military.

Chu had previously provided the committee with statistics regarding personnel waivers granted in 2006 and 2007 for enlistees who had been convicted of felonies.

The data you provided the Committee shows that there was a rapid rise in 2007 in the number of waivers the Army and Marine Corps granted to recruits convicted of serious felonies, such as aggravated assault and burglary, said Waxman in the letter.

Some recruits were even granted waivers for felony convictions involving sexual assault and terrorist threats. I am writing to seek more information about these trends and their implications for military readiness.

Waxman said the number of waivers more than doubled from 2006 to 2007, going from 249 to 511, according to data provided to the committee. Waxman said there was also a noticeable increase for the Marines as well.

Although Chu turned over some documents, Waxman became suspicious after Chu informed the committee that the Pentagon was unable to turn over data on previous years due to poor recordkeeping and maintenance.

Waxman is now seeking a slew of documents related to the program.

As the war in Iraq stretches into its sixth year, Democrats have seized on the readiness issue, arguing that the war has stretched the Armed Forces dangerously thin and poses a threat to the countrys national security.

"Our readiness is being consumed as fast as we build it," Army vice Chief of Staff Gen. Richard Cody told a congressional hearing last month, prompting further alarm over the readiness of Americas armed forces.

Waxman wondered if the recruitment issue is tied to the war.

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

Waxman asked for the documents no later than May 20 and asked for a briefing on the matter on or before May 22.