Under pressure to increase their numbers, the Army and Marine Corps have sharply raised the number of recruits with felony convictions they are admitting to the services.
Data released by a congressional committee shows that the number of soldiers admitted to the Army with felony records jumped from 249 in 2006 to 511 in 2007. And the number of Marines with felonies rose from 208 to 350.
The bulk of the crimes involved were burglaries, other thefts, and drug offenses, but nine involved sex crimes and six involved manslaughter or vehicular homicide convictions. Several dozen Army and Marine recruits had aggravated assault or robbery convictions, including incidents involving weapons.
House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, who released the data, noted that there may be valid reasons for granting the waivers and giving individuals a second chance.
But he added, "Concerns have been raised that the significant increase in the recruitment of persons with criminal records is a result of the strain put on the military by the Iraq war and may be undermining military readiness."
The services use a waiver process to let in recruits with felony convictions, and many of the crimes were committed when the service members were juveniles.