Saturday, January 26, 2008

The Army of the Future - Today!

Here's Bill Arkin of The Washington Post on the new study from the National Priorities Project:
A new study from the National Priorities Project, a Massachusetts-based research organization, found that the percentage of recruits entering the Army with a high school diploma dropped to a new low in 2007 and was nearly 20 percentage points shy of the Army's goal. The study additionally found that average scores on the army qualification test are dropping.

The Army responds that "we're not putting anyone in the Army that we don't feel is qualified to serve as a soldier."

But [the Army's] answer to [its current] recruiting problem -- lowering standards, loosening age restrictions and increasing bonuses and other economic incentives -- can only be a short-term fix. Less qualified recruits are known to drop out more and reenlist less than soldiers with more education and higher aptitudes. They are less able to perform their missions. And they are less capable of surviving on the battlefields of an extremely complicated world.

Perhaps the end of the polarizing Bush administration, as well as an exit from Iraq, will encourage more qualified and motivated young people to join the military.

But I think the crisis goes beyond Iraq and Bush.

The National Priorities study underscored that lower and middle-income families are supplying the lion's share of recruits. Our military is increasingly less representative of our society. And I think one of the drivers behind that trend is that Americans are fundamentally uncomfortable with the tenor of the war against terrorism.

The flag waiving and the slogans and the eye-watering reverence for the troops is still on display. But the patriotism is mostly hollow. The country is clearly not behind the kinds of wars being waged to defeat terrorism. And increasing the size of the Army or throwing more money at the Pentagon is not going to address this fundamental problem.

OYE Comment:

The entire study is worth a careful read. Clearly, nothing serious is going to happen under the current Administration. 'All the more reason for the American people to focus on credible national leadership when they make their choices this year.

Money and resources mean nothing if our national leadership refuses to lead. Increasing the size of the Army means nothing if our civilian political leaders refuse to set a good example for all of us.