A Huge Load Of G-RAP

“The real tragic outcome from this G-RAP debacle is the soldiers and former soldiers who stood up and volunteered to serve and protect our Constitution are now being treated as criminals without any kind of due process rights, and it’s horrific what Army CID has done.” – Army Special Forces COL (ret) Douglas K. O’Connell, Attorney at law.

It sounded like a good idea; pay Guardsmen and Reservists to help recruit people into the Army. The plan was if you, as a soldier, could talk someone into joining, the Army would pay you $1000 when they signed on and another $1000 once your recruit finished basic training. Pretty sweet. I would have been all over that if it had been available when I was in the Army. But, looking back on the vast cluster it has become, I’m really glad I wasn’t there for the “opportunity.” Soldiers who participated in the program were known as recruiter’s assistants.

Screenshot from YouTube and Fox News

The Recruiting Program

In 2005, when we were busy fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army desperately needed more soldiers. So that’s when they created the Army Reserve Recruiting Assistance Program (AR-RAP) and the National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program (G-RAP). I explained above, in the broadest terms, how the program worked. It was ingenious; overnight, the military had thousands of new part-time recruiters motivated by a financial incentive. So what could possibly go wrong?

Up front, we should realize that the US government outsourced management of the recruiting programs to a federal contractor, Docupak, a private company.

The program was the most successful recruiting program ever conducted by the military. The reservist’s contacts led to about 150,000 recruits. This cost the service $459.4 million. After almost seven years, the Army ended the program following widespread allegations of fraud. That’s not too surprising when nearly half a billion dollars are in play. Somebody somewhere is bound to get greedy. According to Col O’Connell in an interview with Fox News, “There were some recruiters who were manipulating data and giving kickbacks, or sharing money with recruiting assistants.” He referred to it as “very limited when you considered the size and the scope of the program.”  

O’Connell goes on to say how, in his opinion, Army leadership, in their testimony to Congress, gave “grossly inaccurate numbers of people who had participated in the program who they labeled criminals.” The Army planned to investigate all 106,000 soldiers paid through the program. While addressing Congress, the Army told lawmakers they could uncover up to $100,000,000 of fraudulent activity; almost one in every four dollars spent on the program. By 2017 the Army took a look at its accounting a second time and lowered that number by 94%, down to $6,000,000. Still, nothing to sneeze at, but nowhere near 100 miles. As of this writing, a total of $478,002 has been repaid to the US Treasury, and soldiers paid over $60,000 in fines until, in 2016, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter stopped the Pentagon’s efforts to try to recoup money from service members following pushback from Congress. Lawmakers made the case that some of the soldiers who were overpaid were unaware of that fact.

The Army Criminal Investigation Division checked out the cases of suspected fraud. But, by all accounts, they did a sloppy job. Col O’Connell explains how CID would call people on the phone, sometimes several years after they had gotten out of the service, and ask them, “Who was the first person you talked to about joining the National Guard?” If they didn’t say the recruiting assistant’s name, the investigators assumed the recruiting assistant was guilty of criminal misconduct, a charge that O’Connell called “absolutely ridiculous.” 

Of course, with all that money and the bureaucracy involved, there were a few bad actors. In the end, 286 soldiers received nonjudicial punishments for their roles in the scam, according to the current CID Director. One hundred and thirty-seven troops were prosecuted in civilian courts for fraudulently receiving compensation via the program. Unfortunately, the man you are about to read about was not among them.