Army’s senior leaders dodge punishment in recruiting bonus scandal, while lower-ranking officers take blame

Gen. H Steven Blum at a conference at Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va., on Sept. 18, 2009. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jim Greenhill

A newly released report indicates that many lower-level Army National Guard recruiting assistants were justified  in questioning why senior leaders were not punished for their roles in the recruit-referral bonus scandal.

A previously unpublished inspector general report from August 2014– which has been obtained by the Washington Times – shows that only one member of the Army’s top brass was punished while thousands of lower level officers were investigated. The 2014 report singled out 8 generals initially, for suspected wrongdoing, however, only two generals were punished — Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn and Lt. Gen Steven Blum.

Blum received a letter of reprimand because it was determined that as the National Guard chief, he had the legal obligation to review and approve the contract. Blum responded to the charge by saying he gave that chore to his comptroller. The Army vice chief of staff, reviewed the case and decided not to put the reprimand into Gen. Blum’s personnel file.

In the end, it was really just Vaughn whom the Army punished. Vaughn was the founder of the  Army Guard Recruiting Assistance Program, or GRAP, which began in 2005 to help deal with a manpower crisis the Army National Guard was facing at the time. It fell 20,000 soldiers short of the authorized level. So, Lt. Gen. Vaughn decided to create a program where National Guard members could earn $2,000 or more for each person they enlist.  The program was a huge success. More than 140,000 soldiers were recruited — putting an end to the manpower crisis.

The IG report found that Vaughn’s office “failed to establish or implement adequate policy and procedures to effectively manage GRAP, provide oversight and mitigate fraud.” It was also reported that Vaughn “aggressively pressed subordinates to make GRAP work.”

Mr. Vaughn told The Times that he was “kept in the dark” about fraud occurring out in the field.

What was happening ‘out in the field’ apparently was that a “small minority” of recruiting assistants were submitting vouchers online for people they never recruited. According to the Times, there were predictions, two years ago, of nearly $100 million in fraud involving 2,000 recruiting assistants. However, those numbers look very different today. Only 492 soldiers have been convicted or suspected of crimes and the fraud amount stands at $6 million. Even that figure, some argue, is overblown.

John Goheen, spokesman for the National Guard Association of the United States, estimates the actual number will turn out to be $2 million, a fraction of the total contract over seven years. After the fraud was revealed in the 2012 audits, the program was shut down.

Goheen believes that the Army and Justice Department are trying to make that $2 million grow to justify the actions of the  Army Criminal Investigation Command.

Jeffrey Addicott, a former Army judge advocate representing a soldier being targeted by the Justice Department says, “Many of those accused of wrongdoing…. did nothing wrong and the military, unable to prove wrongdoing, stabs them in the back by administrative means.”

Addicott  adds:  “It is the height of hypocrisy that those in leadership positions are shielded from accountability for their criminal actions, while those who can hardly get by on the military’s pay are forced to spend their life savings defending themselves.”

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  • Michele graduated with a B.S. in Telecommunication from the University of Florida’s College of Journalism and Communications. She has spent numerous years working in the news industry in south Florida, including many positions ranging from being a news writer at WSVN, the Fox affiliate in Miami to being an associate news producer at WPLG-TV, the ABC affiliate in Miami. Michele has also worked in Public Relations and Marketing.

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