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Army Takes Bite Out of Dog Tags

The U.S. Army is finally starting to remove Social Security numbers from dog tags. But it won't happen to anytime soon for most soldiers. Those deploying get first dibs on the newly revamped identification tags, as my colleague Amy Bushatz reports at

The tags will instead display the 10-digit Defense Department identification number currently included on Pentagon ID cards, and will be issued to solders on an as-needed basis, with those deploying getting priority, service officials said in a press release.

"This change is not something where Soldiers need to run out and get new tags made," Michael Klemowski, the soldiers programs branch chief at U.S. Army Human Resources Command, said in the release. "We are focusing first on the personnel who are going to deploy. If a Soldier is going to deploy, they are the first ones that need to have the new ID tags."

What's amazing is how long it took the military to begin this process. The Pentagon almost a decade ago announced plans to move away from using Social Security numbers on so many items to reduce risk of identity theft.

What's even more interesting is how many soldiers and veterans apparently hated the inclusion of Social Security numbers on the devices in the first place.

One of my colleagues, a Vietnam veteran, wrote me in an email, "Biggest mistake ever using those. I went in with an old fashioned RA number, and it was switched to my SSN within weeks."

One of the commenters to the article wrote, "It was a stupid move."

The military apparently started incorporating Social Security numbers on dog tags beginning in the late 1960s and the old service numbers were phased out in the early 1970s. But does anyone know why this decision was made in the first place?

The Social Security Administration has this colorful tale about how the Roosevelt administration in the 1930s actually debated assigning Social Security numbers to citizens by issuing them on metal nameplates -- but nothing at first glance on the decision decades later to actually include them on dog tags.

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