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Report | Aug. 3, 2023

Audit of the Military Service Recruiting Organizations’ Efforts to Screen Applicants for Extremist and Criminal Gang Behavior (DODIG-2023-103)


Publicly Released:  August 7, 2023


The objective of this audit was to determine whether Military Service recruiting organizations screened applicants for extremist and criminal gang behavior in accordance with DoD and Military Service policies and procedures.



DoD and Military Service-specific guidance provides standards for enlistment, appointment, and induction into the Military Services. On April 9, 2021, the Secretary of Defense issued a memorandum outlining immediate actions to address extremism across the DoD, including the review and standardization of screening questionnaires to solicit specific information from applicants about current or previous extremist behavior. Military Service recruiting organizations are responsible for screening applicants. The screening includes interviews, questionnaires and forms, tattoo review, and background checks.



The Military Service recruiting organizations generally screened applicants for extremist and criminal gang behavior in accordance with DoD and Military Service guidance. However, for the applicants required to complete screening steps, Military Service recruiters did not:

• annotate that 53 (41 percent) of 129 applicants were asked and responded to initial questions about extremist or criminal gang affiliation; August 3, 2023

• administer screening questionnaires or forms for 43 (40 percent) of 107 applicants;

• implement tattoo and body modification review procedures for 12 (9 percent) of 132 applicants;

• provide evidence of fingerprint results for 13 (9 percent) of 142 applicants; or

• provide evidence that a background investigation was initiated for 1 (1 percent) of 137 applicants.


As a result of not completing required applicant screening steps, Military Service recruiters may not have identified all applicants with extremist or criminal gang associations during the screening process, increasing the potential for future security risks and disruptions to good order, morale, and discipline. We also determined that Air Force recruiters entered data in the Air Force recruiting system for 26 (34 percent) of 76 Air Force applicants reviewed, showing that the applicants disclosed extremist or gang associations when the applicants had not made such disclosures. Air Force recruiters stated that they mistakenly checked boxes in the system indicating applicant extremist or gang associations. Additionally, the system did not automatically stop the application process because of a lack of system controls.



We recommend that the Secretaries of the Military Departments issue a policy memorandum to recruiting personnel reiterating the importance of completing all required steps for screening applicants for extremist or criminal gang associations. We further recommend that the Secretaries of the Military Departments establish and implement requirements for periodic reviews of recruiter compliance with required accessions screening procedures. During the audit, Air Force officials implemented a system change to correct the deficiency we identified with the Air Force recruiting system.


Management Comments and Our Response

Officials from the Offices of the Secretary of the Army, Navy, and Air Force agreed with the recommendations and described actions planned and taken to resolve the recommendations. Therefore, Recommendations A.1.b, A.2.a, A.2.b, A.3.a, and A.3.b are resolved and open and Recommendation A.1.a is closed. Please see the recommendations table on the next page for the status of recommendations.

This report is a result of Project No. D2022-D000RG-0052.000