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McCaskill Blames Military Recruitment Scandal On Lack Of Oversight

(UPI file photo)

A military-recruitment program gone awry may have cost U.S. taxpayers as much as $50 million, Army and National Guard officials confirmed Tuesday in a hearing before a Senate panel chaired by U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill.

Still, several of those testifying defended the program as being highly effective in increasing the number of troops during the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan deployments from 2006-2008. The program began in 2005 and ended in 2012, when problems were detected.

McCaskill, D-Mo., said she was concerned that no one has been convicted so far, although hundreds of members of the military – going as high as a general – have been identified as possible culprits in a scheme that provided some with six-figure bonuses for recruiting.

“It’s going to break my heart if people get away with this,’’ McCaskill said at the beginning of a two-hour hearing by the subcommittee on financial and contracting oversight.

Before the hearing, she told USA Today that that program has touched off “one of the largest criminal investigations in the history of the Army."

She faulted lack of “effective controls,’’ although some of those testifying disputed that characterization.

During the hearing, McCaskill cited investigations that have determined that much of the fraud was the result of recruiting officers and others obtaining bonuses for new troops who were going to sign up anyway.  She maintained that the misdeeds could have been discovered earlier if the recruits had been required to identify who had recruited them.

“That’s why I’m frustrated because many of these controls were never put into place,’’ said McCaskill, who asked most of the questions during the hearing.

According to McCaskill’s staff, 555 active investigations involving 840 people are currently underway.  Major Gen. David Quantock, the top officer overseeing the probe, said the military has targeted close to a quarter of the $400 million spent on the recruiting program.  Current estimates are that roughly $50 million may have been misspent via the improper bonuses, he testified.

In a handful of cases, some in the military netted accumulated bonuses of $100,000 or more.

Still, some of those testifying said the program did do its job of  beefing up the military at a time when regular recruiting methods were running far short.

McCaskill said she recognized that most of the military involved in recruitment behaved ethically, but she said the misdeeds by several hundred military officers -- even if a minority -- "have done great disservice to the men and women they lead."

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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