The Financial and Contracting Oversight subcommittee, led by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., met Tuesday to investigate the Army National Guard Recruiting Assistance Program and the possibility of fraud in which recruiters allegedly received kickbacks, CBS News reported.
The program was meant to help bolster the number of recruits during a time when demand was high due to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If a soldier was able to get a peer to join up, he or she received a referral bonus of $2,000 to $7,500.
Full-time uniformed Army recruiters aren't eligible for the referral bonus, and some are accused of saying another soldier referred a new recruit so the soldier could get a bonus and the recruiter could get a kickback.
An Army official told CBS News the program turned into "a huge gravy train."
A witness before the committee, retired Lt. General Clyde Vaughn, suggested fraud was widespread, saying: "There was fraud between people that really knew there was fraud, and I don't think, when they find them, they have any trouble prosecuting them because ... the trail's there. We didn't have a chance to make a mid-course correction because we didn't know (how). Now who else didn't know? Well if you think about this, the secretary of the whole Army rolled the same program out" instead of heads of the Army National Guard or other Reserve components.
The Army's Criminal Investigative Command found more than 1,200 recruiters were associated with a higher number of referral bonuses.
"What we uncovered is the, really the largest criminal investigation that the Army has ever undertaken," McCaskill said earlier.
At the conclusion of the hearing McCaskill said: "I think that there (are) better efficiencies we can realize out of our recruiting system. I think we've wasted a hell of a lot of money on a lot of things that haven't worked. I'll guarantee you this, I'm going to yell at the top of my lungs if somebody tries to roll out this program without fraud control in it again."