In what is steadily becoming one of the U.S. Army’s largest financial scandals, the G-RAP recruitment program is being heavily investigated. G-RAP, short for “Guard-Recruiting Assistance Program,” is a financial incentive program to encourage active members to recruit civilians and mentor them through their experience in the National Guard. However, due to the financial benefits available to active members, numerous fraudulent schemes and scandals have recently come to light and have people across the country calling for redress.
What was G-RAP?
Beginning in late 2005 and early 2006, all 50 states and 4 U.S. territories implemented the G-RAP program. Essentially, the program allowed certain active members (with actual recruiters and other members in special positions excepted) to recruit and mentor enlistees for cash bonuses. The only main requirement for who could receive bonuses for recruiting potential enlistees was that the recruit had to be in the active member’s “Sphere of Influence.” Just as the ambiguous term “Sphere of Influence” suggests, there was no concrete definition or requirement for who a recruiter could receive bonuses for supposedly “recruiting.” These cash bonuses would vary from $2,000-$7,500 depending on whether the recruit completes BASIC Training, the position obtained by the recruit, and the current National Guard’s need at the time of enlistment.
This program is referred to in the past tense because of it was shut down in 2012. During its tenure, G-RAP was considered a successful recruiting program. In 2006, the National Guard was 20,000 soldiers short of its mandated size of 350,000. However, through the use of G-RAP to incentivize recruiting efforts, the National Guard not only rectified its short-handedness, but also expanded its operations. Many people attribute this quick expansion to G-RAP due to the increased contact recruiters had with potential enlistees (up from 1 out of 18 potential recruits enlisting to 1 out of 4 G-RAP eligible recruits enlisting).
What was Wrong with G-RAP?
Despite its apparent success in assisting the National Guard with recruitment, G-RAP was a “recipe for disaster.” Beginning in 2009, the National Guard and upper echelons of the federal government began receiving allegations of internal fraud regarding the program. Because the National Guard needed recruits so desperately and wanted to offer adequate incentives to its guardsmen, the G-RAP program lacked anti-fraud measures, did not receive enough oversight, and easily manipulated by hundreds, possibly thousands of “recruiters.” Soon after the allegations began, hundreds of National Guardsmen were discovered as having scammed the program, and consequently taxpayers, out of millions of dollars.
Due to the vague nature of the “Sphere of Influence” condition, there were virtually no safeguards for verification that the recruit was actually mentored, influenced, or even met his G-RAP recruiter. While the ways to cheat such a lax program are practically endless, many active members would acquire names of men and women who were inevitably joining the National Guard and were from the active members hometown or loosely through a “friend-of-a-friend.” Moreover, many recruiters (who were ineligible for the bonuses) would find an active member who potentially met or heard of the inevitable enlistee, would forward them to the active member, and request a kickback from the G-RAP bonus. Regardless of the exact scenario, active members were lying about their involvement with the recruit, and were fraudulently obtaining numerous and large financial bonuses from the federal government. Even high –ranking officials including 18 colonels and a 2-star general were caught scamming this program. While the government’s latest estimates place the amount of falsely obtained bonuses at $70 million, more and more cases are still being uncovered. The truth is we may never know how much of the taxpayers’ money has been illegally skimmed through the program. In the words of Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri, “[The Army was] giving out millions of dollars, no questions asked!”
What is Being Done?
Unsurprisingly, taxpayers and their political representatives are upset about this large-scale financial scandal. First, in 2012, the G-RAP program was discontinued in order to prevent any further fraud from occurring. Furthermore, Congress is currently overseeing a massive investigation into the U.S. Army and its oversight of the National Guard’s G-RAP program. The Congressional committee and its head Senator McCaskill have been conducting hearings with Guardsmen and Army officials since January 2014 in an effort to assess and minimalize the damage. One of the biggest questions on every committee member’s mind is why better anti-fraud and oversight measures were not put into place. The Army has also launched an investigation. Through its Criminal Investigation Service, the U.S. Army has begun nearly 600 investigations into over 1,200 individuals who allegedly defrauded the program. While numerous verified cases have been dismissed due to the Statute of Limitations having run, the Army is currently prosecuting scammers and is also implementing administrative punishments, such as suspensions, rank reductions, and discharges. While the process is far from over, much to taxpayers’ relief, redress is occurring.