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US military OK'ing more recruits with criminal past

WASHINGTON -- The Army and Marine Corps are letting in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, reflecting the increased pressure of five years of war and its mounting casualties.

According to data compiled by the Defense Department, the number of Army and Marine recruits needing waivers for felonies and serious misdemeanors, including minor drug offenses, has grown since 2003. The Army granted more than double the number of waivers for felonies and misdemeanors in 2006 than it did in 2003.

The military routinely grants waivers to admit recruits who have criminal records, medical problems, or low aptitude scores -- things that would otherwise disqualify them . The majority are moral waivers, which include some felonies, misdemeanors, and traffic and drug offenses.

The number of felony waivers granted by the Army grew from 411 in 2003 to 901 in 2006, the Pentagon says, or about one in 10 of the moral waivers approved that year. Other misdemeanors, which could be petty theft, writing a bad check, or some assaults, jumped from about 2,700 to more than 6,000 in 2006.

The minor crimes represented more than three-quarters of the moral waivers granted by the Army in 2006, up from more than half in 2003.

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