From today’s Washington Post:
- The U.S. military, struggling to fill its voluntary ranks, is offering to allow recruits to meet part of their military obligations by serving in the Peace Corps, which has resisted any ties to the Defense Department or U.S. intelligence agencies since its founding in 1961.
The recruitment program has sparked debate and rising opposition among current and former Peace Corps officials. Some welcome it as a way to expand the cadre of idealistic volunteers created by President John F. Kennedy. But many say it could lead to suspicions abroad that the Peace Corps, which has 7,733 workers in 73 countries, is working together with the U.S. armed forces.
“Does this raise red flags for the Peace Corps community? I’d say yes — emphatically so,” said Kevin Quigley, president of the National Peace Corps Association, an organization of returned volunteers, staff and supporters. “We think a real or perceived linkage between the Peace Corps and military service could damage the Peace Corps and potentially put the safety of Peace Corps volunteers at risk.”
Congress authorized the recruitment program three years ago in legislation that drew little attention at the time but is stirring controversy now, for two reasons: The military has begun to promote it, and the day is drawing closer when the first batch of about 4,300 recruits will be eligible to apply to the Peace Corps, after having spent 3 1/2 years in the armed forces. That could happen as early as 2007.