Army says its desertion numbers were wrong; Stripes takes share of blame
WASHINGTON — The Army said Friday that desertion numbers it provided for the first half of fiscal 2005, which were reported in Friday editions, are incorrect.
Army spokeswoman Martha Rudd said Friday morning that an improper code was used in the Army’s search through a database. It yielded information that effectively doubled the numbers of deserters for the first six months of fiscal 2005.
“Our source just ran those numbers wrong,” Rudd said. “Until this morning, I didn’t know what the right numbers were.”
Rudd also said, however, that she sent the Stars and Stripes reporter an e-mail Wednesday saying that the numbers were suspect and officials were rechecking them.
In all 12 months of fiscal 2004, the total number of Army deserters was 2,723, according to the information given to Stars and Stripes earlier by Army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Pamela Hart.
In Friday’s story, Stripes reported that between Oct. 1, 2004 — the start of fiscal 2005 — and March 30, the Army registered 2,518 deserters.
These figures were given to the reporter via e-mail by Hart and confirmed in a subsequent conversation.
Officials were quoted in the story as acknowledging the “rise” in desertions and commenting on the supposed phenomenon.
But on Friday morning, Rudd called Stripes and said that the actual number of deserters for October 2004 through the end of April 2005, a seven-month period, was 1,432, in line with past years.
She said this was determined by looking at the figures of deserters month by month through the first seven months of the fiscal year.
David Mazzarella, editorial director of Stars and Stripes, said: “We reported what we had in good faith. However, with some doubt having been cast on the numbers beforehand, we should have waited longer before publishing.”