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Anyone who commits a felony sex crime would be barred from joining the military under new legislation that would codify a 2009 Defense Department policy.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., would put the force of law behind a prohibition against providing waivers for criminal history to enlisted or officer recruits convicted of sex crimes.
"There is never a reason to allow people convicted of such heinous crimes to be in our military," Boxer said. "This will ensure it never happens again."
What constitutes a felony sex crime varies by state, but rape, sodomy, sex with a minor and possession of child pornography are often felonies, while public indecency and sex between minors often is a misdemeanor.
Boxer's bill, S 2137, is a safeguard against the services lowering standards in the future; felony waivers already are rare, and are not allowed for those convicted of violent crimes, sex crimes or felonies. The 2009 policy that restricted criminal waivers came as a result of congressional complaints about the assortment of mostly petty criminals who had been allowed into the ranks when the services encountered recruiting difficulties.
Army Secretary John McHugh played a big role in tightening the waivers in his previous position as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee's military personnel panel. He raised objections to allowing people convicted of serious crimes into the ranks.
Army data show that soldiers allowed into the military on criminal waivers are more likely to commit crimes. From 2001 to 2011, 0.5 percent of soldiers who entered the military with a criminal waiver committed a sex crime. In comparison, 0.3 percent of soldiers who entered without a waiver committed a sex crime during those years.