The armed forces aren’t the only parts of the military having trouble drumming up recruits. Reuters reports that fewer high school students are applying to the U.S.’s three military academies.
"Applications to the U.S. Military Academy
at West Point, N.Y., which produces junior officers for the Army,
declined 9.3 percent compared with last year, the academy said.
Applications were down 20 percent from a year ago at the U.S. Naval
Academy in Annapolis and down 22.7 percent at the Air Force Academy in
Enrollment is down despite the schools’ free tuition and room and board. Of course, that free ride does come with a catch: all students "commit to at least five years of active-duty service after graduating."
According to Reuters, "Lexington Institute defense analyst Loren Thompson cited three factors in the drop in applications.
"First of all, the economy is recovering, and so military careers look relatively less appealing," Thompson said.
"Second, the Iraq war is creating a very powerful negative impact on
the propensity of people to sign up and serve. And third, the wave of
patriotism that followed 9/11 has largely dissipated after two years of
fighting in Iraq," Thompson added, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001,
West Point spokesman Mike D’Aquino said it would be speculation to blame the war for the decline in applications. "There’s really no hard facts to make that conclusion," D’Aquino said.
Meade Warthen, an Air Force Academy spokesman, agreed, saying: "We just
don’t know, and we wouldn’t want to speculate. I could come up with a
hundred reasons and so could anybody else."
Barmak Nassirian of
the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions
Officers said that in contrast to the military academies, application
volume appears to have increased this year at most colleges and
universities. Applications declined from
11,881 last year to 10,774 this year at West Point and from 12,430 last
year to 9,604 this year at the Air Force Academy, the schools said. D’Aquino said this year’s drop left
West Point at about the level of applications it was receiving before
the 2001 attacks, adding that there has been no decline in the quality
of the incoming class compared to previous classes. "We’re still getting a big pool of qualified applicants, good applicants," D’Aquino said.
The Air Force Academy, rocked by a recent sexual assault scandal and
currently the subject of an investigation into allegations of religious
bias, said its applications also had receded to levels predating the
2001 attacks. Warthen said last year’s number of applications was the
highest since the class that entered in 1988."