According to an article in today’s Boston Globe, the military is considering installing surveillance cameras in recruiting stations, among other measures, to curb recruiter misconduct. This seems to be an implicit acknowledgment of counter-recruiters’ charge that recruiters frequently abuse their power, deceive potential recruits to meet quotas, and harass young people. One of the proposed measures even addresses charges of sexual harassment; it would bar recruiters from one-on-one meetings with potential recruits of the opposite sex.
The military faces a dilemma. It’s barely meeting its recruitment quotas, but there’s apparently widespread recruiter misconduct. Whether any of these measures, which seem like good ideas, actually go into the effect will speak to how much Pentgaon is willing to risk lower recruitment totals for more truthful, less manipulative recruitment practices.
U.S. may tighten rules for military recruiters
Monday, March 19, 2007
WASHINGTON: The U.S. military is considering installing surveillance cameras in recruiting stations across the country, the most dramatic of several new steps to address a rise in misconduct allegations against military recruiters, including sexual assaults on female prospects and bending the rules to meet quotas.
In a letter to Congress obtained by The Boston Globe, a top Pentagon personnel official outlined the initiatives, which also include a ban on recruiters meeting with prospective recruits of the opposite sex unless a supervisor is present.
Recruiters may also be required to give potential recruits “applicant’s rights cards,” spelling out what a recruiter can and cannot do to get them to enlist, and the military may set up a hot line to report violations, according to the letter.
Together, they mark the Pentagon’s most forceful attempt to address what government investigators say is an increase in the number of recruiters using questionable tactics — and in some cases, breaking the law — while trying to fill the Pentagon’s need for new soldiers and marines.
In the letter to Congress dated March 7, Michael Dominguez, the principal deputy under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness, wrote that at least one branch of the service is “assessing the feasibility of video surveillance” to prevent abuses. Dominguez provided few details but said that the cameras were one option among many to prevent recruiter misconduct in the future.
“All services have examined their programs and have instituted several new facets,” Dominguez reported.
The military has more than 20,000 recruiters, thousands of whom serve on the “front lines” of recruitment: schools, malls, sporting events and other gathering places for young people. They are required to sign up at least two recruits a month, a struggle in healthy economic times and when public approval for the war in Iraq is low.
Since the military is seeking to increase its ranks by 92,000 troops over the next five years, the army and Marine Corps will add more recruiters.
But the pressure to put more men and women in uniform probably will not diminish.
While cases of recruiter misconduct are considered rare, a Government Accountability Office investigation using Defense Department data found last year that substantiated cases of recruiter wrongdoing rose from about 400 in 2004 to 630 in 2005.
The August 2006 report also found that cases of sexual harassment of potential recruits or falsifying medical records more than doubled from 30 instances to 70.
Examples of misconduct included making unrealistic promises to recruits, fraternizing with them during off hours, offering them cash or other incentives to enlist and generally “coercive behavior,” said Beth Asch, a researcher at the government-funded RAND Corporation, who specializes in military recruiting issues. Criminal behavior included underage drinking and sexual harassment.
Recruiter misconduct “is an old problem,” said Asch, dating at least to the 1970s, when the draft ended and the all-volunteer force began. “They face a mission every month to get recruits in the door,” she said. “And that’s hard. The pressure is increasing. And the harder it is, the greater the incentive to try to do some back-door dealing.”