Although troubled by the military missing its goals for the year, I’m not alarmed. And though a slight changing of standards is also troubling, I also find myself not alarmed by what I understand to be the plan. But if the re-enlistment rate plummets as loyalty to buddies in the combat zone ceases to be such a big factor if/when more US troops come home from Iraq, the US Army could be on a track it doesn’t want to be on.
High school drop-outs are now eligible if they can get their GED at Army expense. And the lowest category of recruits, the “Category IV” recruits, can make up 4% of the new enlistees rather than the previous 2%. This means, obviously, that a few more of the less-qualified candidates are going to get in.
What isn’t changing is the cap on the percentage of recruits with a GED rather than a diploma. This will remain at 10%. And high school dropouts unable to pass the GED will still be ineligible.
Recruits will still take the ASVAB to determine the MOS classifications they’re qualified for. So, really, the standards haven’t actually been “lowered”. But there will be a few thousand more guys at the lower end of the spectrum than previously, and, while this might not have an impact immediately, it will be felt if it goes on for an extended time.
Army standards have been higher than Pentagon requirements, and this wasn’t a problem in years when quotas were met pretty easily. But in days when the job market is good, the economy is up, and the prospect of prolonged deployments to dangerous places is virtually a certainty, the Army is pulling back a bit to the minimum standards allowed by the Pentagon.
So while Murdoc is [UPDATE not] running in panic like many, he’s concerned today and worried about what this means for tomorrow. Right now, re-enlistments are covering for a lot of the shortfall. Obviously, it’s better to have a fully-trained and battle-experienced soldier than it is to have a new recruit, even if he is a high school graduate. And it’s the combat units that are seeing the highest rates of retention, which is where we need it the most. But as time passes these slight softening of standards are going to catch up with us.
I think our service members need more money, more perks, and more assurances (backed up by action, of course) that they are going to get what they want and need. The body armor and armored vehicle short-comings have cost us American lives. Now those same issues are costing us recruits.
The LA Times writes
[Army Secretary Francis J.] Harvey denied Monday that the Army was in the midst of a recruiting crisis, pointing to a series of new initiatives — including increasing the Army’s advertising budget by $130 million and putting 3,000 more recruiters on the streets — that he hoped would reverse the downward trend.
That’s all well and good, but that also means we’re pulling 3,000 guys off of other duties to make it happen. This sort of thing can snowball.
More info at Army Times. Fred Kaplan comments at Slate. I don’t agree with everything Kaplan says (as usual) but he makes some good points. Without panicking, this needs to be treated as a major problem. It needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.