USA — Big cost savings comes in tiny package

FORT KNOX, Ky. — Over the past year a 4‑pound elec­tron­ic device about the size of a child’s shoe­box has saved U.S. Army Recruit­ing Com­mand mil­lions of dol­lars and thou­sands of recruiter man-hours. The small device enables recruiters to gath­er fin­ger­prints for FBI back­ground checks on appli­cants before they go to the Mil­i­tary Entrance Pro­cess­ing Sta­tion.

 DHS fingerprint machine
DHS fin­ger­print machine
Click to enlarge

Part of a Depart­ment of the Army pilot ini­tia­tive now called “Project Live Scan,” the devices were placed in approx­i­mate­ly two-thirds of recruit­ing sta­tions last April.

“I don’t think words can explain how great it’s been,” said Sgt. 1st Class James Alston, the Eliz­a­beth­town, Ky., Recruit­ing Cen­ter com­man­der. “It’s elim­i­nat­ed a whole lot of unneed­ed trav­el time for recruiters.”

The time sav­ings is approx­i­mate­ly four hours per appli­cant, accord­ing to Acces­sions Com­mand sur­veys. By mov­ing the fin­ger­print­ing step to the fore­front of the recruit­ing process recruiters know with­in a few days whether or not an appli­cant has a crim­i­nal record. By run­ning the scans ear­ly, when the appli­cant com­mits to enlist­ing, recruiters don’t have to waste valu­able time pro­cess­ing unqual­i­fied appli­cants, as is some­times the case when fin­ger­prints aren’t tak­en until the poten­tial future Sol­dier goes to Mil­i­tary Entrance Pro­cess­ing Sta­tion, or MEPS.

Gen­er­al­ly, the mere men­tion of an FBI crim­i­nal back­ground check has a way of bring­ing out the truth, said Ron­nie Creech, chief, G3 Tech­ni­cal Sup­port Branch USAREC HQ.

“Most of the time, when you have an appli­cant who’s not being com­plete­ly truth­ful, when you get to the point where you’re ready to put their hand on the machine to get a fin­ger­print and you tell them you’re going to send it to the FBI to retrieve any pos­si­ble crim­i­nal record, chances are, if they have some­thing, they’re going to tell you at that point,” Creech explained. “And if not, we’re going to find out any­way.”

Alston, whose cen­ter was among the first to receive the device, esti­mates Live Scan has saved his recruiters about 30 man-hours a week, time now bet­ter spent engag­ing prospects.

“This has allowed us more time to spend in the schools and in com­mu­ni­ties, giv­en us more face time with the pub­lic. When you have time to do that, it gen­er­ates a more pos­i­tive [image] for the Army. We coun­sel [youth] — even those who don’t want to join the Army — just to give them [some] guid­ance and direc­tion. Maybe lat­er they’ll refer some­one to join the Army.”

The pro­gram is also sav­ing the Army mil­lions of dol­lars, accord­ing to Creech.

“In 2009 USAREC saved around $1 mil­lion in one battalion’s geo­graph­i­cal area in train­ing seat loss­es. Mul­ti­ply that across the entire com­mand — 38 bat­tal­ions — and you’re talk­ing about mil­lions.”

There were a few grow­ing pains ear­ly on with the pro­gram but noth­ing major, accord­ing to Nick Har­ri­son, divi­sion chief for Army Recruit­ing Infor­ma­tion Sup­port Sys­tem G3 tech sup­port.

“We were learn­ing the best way to build the net­work, how to store and trans­mit data to dif­fer­ent agen­cies in sup­port of the recruiters’ busi­ness prac­tices and oper­a­tional needs,” Har­ri­son said. “We had to stay with­in the con­fines of the law and could­n’t arbi­trar­i­ly fin­ger­print civil­ians. They had to have the intent to process and enlist. We had to learn all the things we need­ed to do.”

Now that the kinks have been worked out, the remain­ing 540 sta­tions are sched­uled to receive the devices by the end of Decem­ber, which is a year ahead of sched­ule.

In addi­tion, the Depart­ment of Army last April agreed to pay for the devices as well as the ear­ly fin­ger-print­ing process of all Army appli­cants. In exchange, DA civil­ian and con­trac­tor job appli­cants can have their fin­ger­prints processed at a recruit­ing sta­tion near their homes.

The fin­ger-print­ing process does not remove the require­ment for recruiters to screen appli­cants for moral qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Creech empha­sizes Live Scan sim­ply pro­vides the tool to reveal moral dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tions before appli­cants process through MEPS.

U.S. Army

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