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DOD sets joint standards for enlistee waivers

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (July 02, 2008) -- The Department of Defense has now set standards for how individual services will offer conduct waivers to those it recruits.

The new policy, announced during a press briefing Wednesday at the Pentagon, standardizes how the Army and other services classify offenses, how many offenses a recruit may have committed before requiring a waiver, and in what combination those offenses may have been committed.

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"Terms like felony and misdemeanor get confounding. What is a felony in one state is not in another. And what is a misdemeanor is the same thing," said Bill Carr, deputy under secretary of defense for military personnel policy.

Now the department has classified individual offenses into four categories. The classification for each of those offenses is based on how "most states" classify the offense. If an offense like grand theft auto is a felony in most states, it would be classified as "major misconduct," Carr said.

"It's not correct to call it a felony, because it is not always a felony," he said. "But because it is a felony in most states, we will call it major misconduct. And that is the most egregious type of transgression that we want to look at."

Other categories include "misconduct," which would be offenses that in most states are classified as misdemeanors; "non-traffic," such as not depositing change at a toll booth; and "traffic offensives."

"There are four groupings the department will recognize in terms of gravity," he said. "Now that we know the terms, how many of them can you have?"

Some examples of what will require all services to seek waivers:

• One major misconduct requires a waiver

• Two misconducts requires a waiver

• One misconduct, along with four non-traffic offenses, requires a waiver

Carr said services are free to create their own policies that are stricter than what DOD has standardized. He also said the department has found that problems with recruits are more likely to happen with those that have a pattern of minor offenses than with those that have only a single major misconduct offense.

The DOD has also created standard codes that describe the particulars of an offence. Recruiters, he said, would enter those standardized codes on enlistment records.

"With codes we can determine downstream performance and attrition and determine if something is a problem," he said.

The Army's G-1 recently conducted a study of enlistees accessed from FY03-FY06. The study compared 258,270 Soldiers who did not need conduct waivers and 17,961 who did, said Lt. Col. Val Siegfried, the Army G-1 branch chief for enlisted accessions, during an earlier interview.

The study did find differences between the two groups. For instance, the conduct waiver population re-enlisted at a higher rate. The conduct waiver Soldiers also earned a higher ratio of valorous awards and combat badges -- 13.87 percent compared to 12.73 percent. Additionally, the conduct waiver population included more high-school graduates, higher scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, and fewer Soldiers scoring in the "Cat 4" range on the ASVAB test.

However, the Army also found that Soldiers who required conduct waivers had higher losses in six of nine "adverse loss categories." That included a .27-percent loss rate for alcohol rehabilitation failure verses the non-waiver population's loss rate of .12 percent; a misconduct rate of 5.95 percent verses the non-waiver population of 3.55 percent; and a desertion rate of 4.26 percent compared to 3.59 percent. However, the attrition due to personality disorders, entry-level performance or unsatisfactory performance for Soldiers with waivers was less than their non-waiver counterparts.

In all, the study showed that the differences between Soldiers that came in with conduct waivers and those that did not are negligible -- the Army lost about 2.3 more Soldiers per 100 due to "adverse losses" than it did among the non-waiver population.

"Statistically, it is kind of insignificant," Siegfried said.

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