BEIJING, Feb. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- The number of recruits with criminal records given waivers to enter the U.S. Army and Marine Corps has more than doubled since 2003 because of the Iraq war and lawmakers and other observers are worried the struggles to fill the military ranks has forced the military to lower its standards.
According to data compiled by the Defense Department,
the number of Army and Marine recruits needing waivers for felonies and serious
misdemeanors, including minor drug offenses, has grown since 2003. The Army
granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in
2006 than it did in 2003. Some recruits may get more than one waiver.
The military routinely grants waivers to admit
recruits who have criminal records, medical problems or low aptitude scores that
would otherwise disqualify them from service. Overall the majority are moral
waivers, which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic and drug
"The data is crystal clear. Our Armed Forces are
under incredible strain and the only way that they can fill their recruiting
quotas is by lowering their standards," said Rep. Marty Meehan, D-Mass., who
requested the information from the Pentagon. "By lowering standards, we are
endangering the rest of our armed forces and sending the wrong message to
potential recruits across the country."
Army spokesman Paul Boyce said Tuesday he is
concerned because the Pentagon data differs from Army numbers. But overall, he
said, "anything that is considered a risk or a serious infraction of the law is
given the highest level of review."
"Our goal is to make certain that we recruit quality
young men and women who can keep America defended against its enemies," Boyce
The number of felony waivers granted by the Army grew
from 411 in 2003 to 901 in 2006, according to the Pentagon, or about one in 10
of the moral waivers approved that year. Other misdemeanors, which could be
petty theft, writing a bad check or some assaults, jumped from about 2,700 to
more than 6,000 in 2006. The minor crimes represented more than three-quarters
of the moral waivers granted by the Army in 2006, up from more than half in
Army and Defense Department officials defended the
waiver program as a way to admit young people who may have made a mistake early
in life but have overcome past behavior. And they said about two-thirds of the
waivers granted by the Marines are for drug use, because they -- unlike the
other services -- require a waiver if someone has been convicted once for