In the private sector, when a bonus is given as an incentive to attract someone to a company, the person cannot be asked to return the money while they are performing or have completed the task they were assigned. However, the Pentagon is asking the people who risked their lives in the line of duty to return the money, which is unacceptable.
When soldiers were needed for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, they were given bonuses to attract them and build a large enough army for the two conflicts without the need for a draft. The funds were poorly managed, according to an audit performed in California to evaluate the way in which they were distributed. That means that the money was given to people who did not meet the requirements.
As a result, a master sergeant of the National Guard was sentenced to 30 months in prison when she pleaded guilty to giving out $15 million in ineligible bonuses. Another 118 people, including 83 officers, are facing legal or administrative charges.
It is believed that this is a nationwide problem. The spotlight on California stems from the large number of soldiers under investigation, nearly 17,000; to the amount of money involved, an approximate $47 million; and to the over-9,000 individuals that are being asked to return money, according to some reports.
The Department of Defense’s General Rules regarding the recovery of payments and bonuses state that an individual shall not be asked to repay if they are not able to fulfill the eligibility requirements due to circumstances “beyond the member’s control.”
In this case, the large majority of the recruits answered in good faith the call of a system defined as corrupt and out of control. It was the Pentagon’s decision to increase the recruitment budget from $296 million in 2005 to $611 in 2008, raising many questions about this expense.
It is good for Secretary of Defense Ash Carter to halt the request for reimbursements and for a number of legislators to be denouncing this measure. Too bad they did not do it before, as Congress has known about this situation for years. It took a newspaper headline in an election year to make them react.
The sordid Iraq War was the period during which the most money was spent on recruitment. It is a shame to see that they are now trying to recover the bonuses given to some of the soldiers who fought in a conflict that represented a waste of billions of dollars.