Issues with the military's reporting of crimes by service members might be more widespread than originally thought, according to a Department of Defense Inspector General’s report.
These concerns came to light after the Texas Church shooting last month.
Veteran Devin Kelley killed 26 people. The Air Force court-martialed and discharged Kelley for domestic violence, but officials failed to report the conviction to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Kelley was still able to get a gun.
The military's own rules require officials submit to the FBI fingerprints and final reports of service members convicted in certain court-martials. Two years’ worth of data collected by the OIG shows throughout all branches, about percent of the time that isn't happening.
The Texas example is a worst case scenario of the lapse in reporting between the military and the FBI. According to DOD's own watchdog, the consequences are real.
The Inspector General's report reads:
"The failure to populate the NGI with all the required fingerprint records can allow someone to purchase a weapon who should not, hinder criminal investigations, and potentially impact law enforcement and national security interests.”
For the Navy alone, 29 percent of fingerprint cards were not submitted. For final dispositions of convictions in court martials, that number jumps to 36 percent, which were not submitted. That means in about three out of every ten cases, the FBI is not getting the information it needs.
Virginia Beach Congressman Scott Taylor says he is "very troubled" by the report.
“There's just no excuse for that kind of failure,” he said.
Taylor is sponsoring a bill, which requires the Pentagon to report to the FBI within three days, if someone is convicted or admits guilt of domestic violence.
“We can hopefully thwart and prevent potential crimes in the future,” he explained.
The Office of the Inspector General reported Navy leadership agreed with the report recommendations. They include submitting details not in the system, reviewing the information to make sure it meets requirements and ensuring there is strict oversight.
We asked Rep. Taylor how he can ensure DOD would follow what is required in his bill, if right now according to the report, the military is not following its own rules.
“This is DOD policy right now; this would be law,” he responded. “So there would be some liability there and it would go up to the respective Secretary of the Army or the Navy or whatever. It would go right to them. If they failed to report it within three days, they would have to come to Congress and explain and remedy the situation.
The policy requires reporting not only of domestic violence crimes, but of offenses like espionage, arson, child pornography and kidnappings. We asked Congressman Taylor if he's given any thought to expanding the bill. He added he is looking into including those crimes in the law, as well.