A trio of senators grilled past and current Army officials Tuesday over alleged fraud in a popular recruiting program.
"I appreciate that recruiting is key to maintaining our military strength … but we have to make sure that we're going about it the right way.… We cannot have programs fly in the face of law," Sen. Claire McCaskill said.
The Missouri Democrat and Republican Sens. Ron Johnson and Kelly Ayotte questioned the officials during a Homeland Security Financial and Contracting Oversight Subcommittee hearing.
In 2012, military officials shut down a popular recruiting effort after an audit raised questions about alleged fraud. The National Guard's Recruiting Assistance Program was created to help the Guard meet recruiting efforts during the Iraq War. But officials pointed to a lack of oversight that left the program open to fraud, including, in some cases, recruitment assistants enlisting some who already planned on joining the Army.
"We have to go back and look at all the people they recruited and find out, you were registered under this recruiter assistant. Did you give your personal information? Did you know he was registering you to come into the National Guard?' " Maj. Gen. David Quantock said when asked to give an example of how the alleged fraud could occur and how officials investigated it.
The Army's Criminal Investigation Command is investigating potential criminal activity in the recruiting program, with 559 criminal investigations involving 1,219 individuals so far, according Lt. Gen. William Grisoli, the director of Army staff, in a written statement. Officials suspect that more than $29 million was illegally obtained.
Quantock said another $66 million could have been fraudulently obtained, but officials are still investigating.
The Army National Guard used the recruiting program from 2005 to 2012, the Army Reserve used its program from 2007 to 2012, and the active Army from 2008 to 2009. Though the program was used to help boost military recruiting, it was overseen by Docupak, an Alabama-based contractor.
In total the program cost $459.4 million: $408.7 million in the Army National Guard, $42.6 million in the Army Reserve, and $7.9 million in the active Army.
Quantock said that in 2007, two potential cases of fraud in the recruiting assistance program were referred, five cases in 2008, and another two in 2009. But it wasn't until 2010—when 10 cases of potential fraud were reported—that an official in Huntsville, Ala., began to question if there was a systemic failure in the program.
"There wasn't really nothing that just jumped to our attention and that would have directly said we've got a major problem," Quantock said, when asked by McCaskill why an audit wasn't ordered until 2011.
Though the recruiting program was canceled in 2012, McCaskill said the entire program could have been illegal from the beginning.