Tuesday, July 19, 2005

The All Volunteer Recruiting Mess

Military recruiting has fallen on tough times due to the total failure on the part of the Administration to plan for the aftermath of the Iraq invasion. As a reminder of just how totally wrong the administration was about Iraq recall the remark that Donald Rumsfeld made, “We will be greeted as liberators in Iraq just as the Allied forces were greeted as liberators by the French in World War 2. Not quite! Day after day we hear of increasing violence by terrorists who, despite assurances of US military commanders that the back of the insurgency has been broken, seem to be capable of remarkable rejuvenation.

Although the youth of America have often been characterized as uninvolved and intellectually lazy, they are smart enough to know that to volunteer for military service now means they could be killed or wounded. This has caused the Pentagon no end of grief and to combat this problem a number of inducements for volunteering for military service have been employed such as $20,000 signing bonus to coerce the poor to enlist.

In addition, the maximum enlistment age has been raised; new recruits are no longer dismissed for drug use, alcohol abuse, poor fitness and pregnancy. Even potential recruits with criminal records are allowed in. Even so, recruiting efforts have been less than successful so now the next ploy is to target teens.

What the military values most is green teens and the Pentagon is smart enough to know that this group is not watching the news or reading newspapers but surfing the web. The Pentagon is paying companies like Teenage Research Unlimited (TRU) which claim “to offer its clients virtually unlimited methods for researching teens,” to get inside kid’s heads The Pentagon, with the aid of a marketing firm, BeNow, has created a database of twelve million youth, some as young as 16, to identify potential recruits. This database contains e-mail addresses, ethnicity, phone numbers, grade point averages, fields of academic study, and other data.

BeNow and TRU are only two of a number of private companies working through JAMRS- the Pentagon’s “program for joint marketing communications and market research and studies”-to fill the ranks of our all volunteer military. As an example of just how insidious these programs are one only need look at the Mothers’ Attitude Study which gauges the attitudes of 270 mothers of 10th and 11th-grade youth toward the Military and enlistment. Should the Pentagon be studying how to influence mothers of teens to send their children off to war? Another study aims to discover what drives college students to drop out and determine how the Services can capitalize on this 18 to 24 age group. The seemingly benign “Moral Waiver Study” actually looks at how those recruits with criminal records who are allowed to enlist in the US military fare in the military.

Not surprisingly, all of the advertising for the military emphasizes the opportunities for travel, training, financial incentives, and the glamour of military life. Basic training is a “nine week-long journey of self-discovery.” The prospect of being wounded or dying or even engaging in combat are largely ignored.

Despite spending 16,000 dollars for each military recruit the all-volunteer force is having severe problems recruiting. It seems clear that America’s youth knows that the slick ads don’t tell the truth and are missing a few critical elements- such as American troops acting as foreign occupiers, killing civilians, torturing, detainees, and failing to deliver security for Iraqis and their own troops.