Know anyone who wants to join the National Guard? In some states, you can now get a commission for a find.

From the American project Homefront:

To attract more recruits to the National Guard, about half a dozen states pay commissions to people who bring in new troops.

In the last fiscal year, the National Guard recruited 9,000 short of its planned recruitment. According to the National Guard Bureau, the federal agency that oversees state security, more than half of the states are 40% or more short of their targets.

To bridge this gap, some states have resorted to paying referral bonuses to non-recruiters.

“That’s $1,000 if a ‘recruiting assistant’, as they’re called, enlists someone in the guard,” Capt. Mikel Arkovich said of how the program works in Vermont.

“Recruiting Assistants” must be affiliated with the Vermont National Guard. Active or retired members of the armed forces may lead leads, as may civilian members of the Guard.

“We have vacancies to fill and everyone contributes, or at least having a program that offers incentives for everyone to contribute is value added,” Arkovic said.

He said the program has generated more than 60 leads and paid out more than $50,000 in bonuses.

The Virginia National Guard has a similar referral program, but any Virginia resident can receive up to $750 in search commissions, whether or not they are affiliated with the Guard.

Lt. Col. Scott Nivens, who commands the Virginia National Guard’s Recruitment and Retention Battalion, said six people have signed up for the recruit recommendation since the program launched in September, and so far they’ve received several leads.

“It’s a nice check for referring someone to our organization,” Nivens said. “We look forward to more success as we move forward.”

There used to be a searcher reward program at the federal level. It was called the Guards Recruitment Assistance Program, or G-RAP, and attracted 130,000 recruits from 2005 to 2012. At the time, the Guard was in dire need of troops due to the Iraq War and the mass mobilization in the US after Hurricane Katrina. .

But the Pentagon shut down the program after an investigation uncovered millions of dollars in fraudulent payments. Some of those accused of abusing the program still deny any wrongdoing.

Despite the program’s troubled past, senior management said it could bring it back.

“By putting in place the right system of checks and balances, we could really help make every Guardsman a recruiter by paying them a bonus for everyone they bring into the organization,” said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, head of the National Guard Bureau.

At a September roundtable discussion, Hokanson said the reboot will require careful planning to rule out any possibility of fraud. But he said the program was a success.

“Obviously there have been lessons learned that we would definitely like to take into account,” Hokanson said. “We want to basically have a solid set of rules and orders and really set the terms.”

Vermont and Virginia security guards said their programs protect against fraud in part because they operate on a much smaller scale with local oversight.

“A recruiter has a system of checks and balances, a recruiting battalion has a system of checks and balances, and payments go through the Vermont military department,” Arkovic said.

And Nivens said the program in Virginia has multiple levels of oversight. First, the supplier—the person who wants to refer a potential recruit—gets the state’s approval. They can then send a lead, which is sent to the National Guard recruiter.

“From there, the recruiter contacts the seller and the applicant to meet in person to determine the applicant’s initial eligibility and possibly begin the application process,” Nivens said.

So far, National Guard leaders have yet to lay out a formal plan for the proposed federal bonus program.

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a collaborative public media project that highlights American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

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