By DAMIEN CAVE
The Defense Department and a private contractor have been building an
extensive database of 30 million 16-to-25-year-olds, combining names
with Social Security numbers, grade-point averages, e-mail addresses
and phone numbers.
The department began building the database three years ago, but
military officials filed a notice announcing plans for it only last
month. That is apparently a violation of the federal Privacy Act,
which requires that government agencies accept public comment before
new records systems are created.
David S. C. Chu, the under secretary of defense for personnel and
readiness, acknowledged yesterday that the database had been in the
works since 2002. Pentagon officials said they discovered in May 2004
that no Privacy Act notice had been filed. The filing last month was
an effort to correct that, officials said.
Mr. Chu said the database was just a tool to send out general material
from the Pentagon to those most likely to enlist.
"Congress wants to ensure the success of the volunteer force," he said
at a reporters' roundtable in Washington. "Congress does not want
conscription, the country does not want conscription. If we don't want
conscription, you have to give the Department of Defense, the military
services, an avenue to contact young people to tell them what is being
offered. It would be na=EF=BF1=8E2ve to believe that in any
enterprise, that you are going to do well just by waiting for people
to call you."
On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that the notification in
The Federal Register had drawn criticism from a coalition of eight
privacy groups that filed a brief opposing the database's creation.
Yesterday, many of those privacy advocates, learning that the database
had been under development for three years, called its existence an
egregious violation of the Privacy Act's rules and intent.