The House Armed Services subcomittee recently discussed how the war in Iraq is hurting recruiting, according to an article in Star and Stripes, the "Department of Defense-authorized
daily newspaper distributed overseas for the U.S. military community."
"Deep into a four-hour congressional hearing on why the active Army and its reserve components are missing recruiting goals, Rep. Vic Snyder, D-Ark., turned a spotlight on the elephant in the room.
The war in Iraq, Snyder said, is unpopular with many Americans, a fact that needs airing, given the all-volunteer nature of the U.S. military.
Until that moment in the July 19 House armed services subcommittee hearing, blame for recruiting shortfalls had focused on negative news coverage of the war, an improving economy, the pace of military operations and an unexplained drop in propensity of parents and other “influencers” of American youth to recommend military service.
Nothing was said of a nation that, polls show, is souring on a war that was launched to destroy Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and shifted, after none was found, into an open-ended occupation and a Herculean effort to turn a fractionalized Muslim nation into a democracy.
David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, blamed the slow recruiting partly on "older advisors" advising young people against enlisting. The Army’s personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, mentioned " ‘skewed’ news coverage." And "Vice Adm. Gerald Hoewing, the Navy’s top personnel officer, pressed for a ‘national communications strategy’ to emphasize the ‘positive things that are taking place around the world.’ "
The Air Force personnel chief, Lt. Gen. Roger A. Brady, said “a barrage of negative press” combined with “a reduced ability to have access to young people to tell our story in schools” hurts recruiting, although Brady said the Air Force is hitting its numbers and quality goals.
Rep. McHugh suggested that new enlistment bonuses may help increase the recruiting numbers, but said “I just have to begin to wonder, however,” said McHugh, “at what point can we continue to buy a force.”