U.S. lawmakers have finally addressed the issue of recruitment bonuses paid to over 1,900 members of the National Guard and Reserve. According to The Associated Press’s reporting, Army investigators are looking into the instances and making corrections to the records after discovering that some people were unfairly chastised and penalized.
Those familiar with the study say that by the end of the year, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division will have gone through all 1,900 instances to find and start fixing the faults. The agents, they argued, may have misread the facts or failed to follow correct protocols during the first inquiry, adding the names of troops to the FBI criminal database and Pentagon records.
Reports at the time indicated that CID investigators were working on a huge investigation into allegedly fraudulent incentive payments totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars and involving over one hundred thousand persons.
Officials, speaking anonymously to discuss information not yet released to the public, claimed that CID has determined that people may have been improperly included in the FBI database in more than half of the instances examined so far. There’s some ambiguity about how many that is.
CID Director Greg Ford stated in a statement obtained by the AP, “Simply simply, necessary processes were not always followed.” We apologize for the errors and are working to amend the data,” he stated, noting that he had CID do the comprehensive examination after receiving requests from certain people for such a look.
At the same time as top officials in the National Guard Bureau are planning to launch a new recruitment incentive scheme in the hopes of boosting flagging membership rates, a fresh probe has been launched. And they want to make sure that future programs don’t have the same issues with fraud and misuse.
The Guard’s officials have discussed rewarding recruiters and Guard soldiers with bonuses if they bring in new members. When the fiscal year concluded on September 30th, the Army Guard had fallen short of its recruitment objective due to a steady stream of departures outpacing arrivals.
General Dan Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau, told reporters in September, “By putting the right checks and balances in place, we could really help make every single guardsman a recruiter by paying them a bonus for anybody that they bring into the organization that is able to complete their military training.” He said that changes needed to be made to protocols to prevent future instances of fraud.
In 2011, after allegations that Guard and Reserve troops and recruiters had improperly collected incentives during the peak years of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, the Army launched an assessment of its recruitment program. Contractors ran the scheme, which gave troops $2,000 to suggest friends and family members who enlisted.
Overpayments, fraud by recruiters and others, and lax management were all revealed in the audits. After the program’s cancellation in 2012, the cases were turned over to the Army Criminal Investigation Command.
Nearly 900 cases were initiated by CID between 2012 and 2016. Officials said that over 130 service members were tried in civilian courts and that 286 troops faced administrative discipline or action from their military superiors. More than $478,000 was reimbursed to the U.S. by the soldiers. According to reports from this week, the Treasury Department has fined the company approximately $60,000.
However, soldiers’ complaints that they were being unfairly targeted by the reimbursements sparked a reaction in Congress. Ash Carter, then the secretary of defense, stopped the campaign to recover the enlistment incentives, which in some instances amounted to more than $25,000, in 2016. At the time, officials said that many of the troops receiving the bonuses had no idea they were illegal or unauthorized.
A total of 1,900 individuals were reportedly added to the FBI’s criminal database, and hundreds more were added to a Defense Department internal database as persons of interest in ongoing criminal investigations. A soldier’s career and advancement opportunities are negatively impacted by such postings, and in the case of the FBI database, the individual may be denied employment or a firearms permit.
Many service members have asked for a second look at their case. Officials have said that troops would be informed of the CID review’s findings on whether or not their identities should be deleted from either database.
Officials have said that each situation is unique, therefore it is unclear how many people, if any, would be eligible for retroactive benefits such as back pay or compensation. It is possible that the procedure will take until spring of 2024 to complete.
Hokanson said that the old incentive scheme was successful in attracting thousands of new employees, and that a similar program might be effective once again with some tweaks. Moreover, he said that Guard commanders all around the nation wished they could do something similar again. According to the Guard, no final decision has been taken on the implementation of a new incentive scheme.