Students at the University of California Santa Cruz disrupted Marine recruitment at a campus job fair on October 18. The protest was organized by Students Against War. A "queer kiss-in" protesting the military’s don’t-ask-don’t-tell policy effectively blocked the Marines’ access to the students at the fair. It was the first return of recruiters to UCSC since students kicked them off campus in April.
Archive for October, 2005
Over 100 organizations have sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld calling for the dismantling of a controversial Pentagon database that collects information on high school students. The coalition, a mix of civil liberties,
religious, anti-war and parent groups, says that the Joint Advertising and
Marketing Research Studies (JAMRS) Recruitment Database is a violation of the 1974 Privacy Act.
The "Dump the Database Coalition," as the groups are known, are also concerned about the broad scope of information collected, the lack of proper notice to the public, and the fact that parties who provided the information are not warned of the military recruiting purpose.
According to a press release from the Bill of Rights Defense Committee (a member of the coalition):
The sources of information for the DOD database include the High School Master File and the College Students Files, which are compiled for purposes that are unrelated to an interest in military service or recruitment. The High School Master File is created from information provided by state motor vehicle departments, and the commercial brokers American Student List and Student Marketing Group.
American Student List sells databases of children’s names in grades K-12 overlaid with data on sex, age, whether they own a telephone, income, religion, and their race or ethnicity. This information is often obtained from surveys that are administered while children are at school, under the pretense of education-related purposes.
And the New Standard News reports that "opponents of the data collection are alarmed that the
Pentagon has yet to make opt-out forms available on its website." But community groups have stepped into the breach – Leave My Child Alone has created its own opt-out form, and an estimated 34,000
people have downloaded it.
While the Pentagon has been compiling information for the database since 2002, it only came to the public eye in June, after the Pentagon
announced it was buying information about high school and college
students between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. The information is
being compiled by BeNow, Inc, under a $343 million contract with a
Massachusetts company, Mullen Advertising, according to the Boston Business Journal. Since subcontracting with Mullen, BeNow has been acquired by Equifax, one of the "big three" credit reporting agencies that compile a wide range of personal and financial data.
There appears to be some slush in the $343 million JAMRS budget; the Washington Post reports that Mullen spent $443,000 for student data from American Student List LLC, and that other costs "include five employees to purchase and manage the data and provide
reports and recruiting leads to the services, at a cost to the Pentagon
of roughly $194,000 per employee, and $16,500 for "toll-free" calls."
Final numbers are in from the Department of Defense, and as expected, the Army missed its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal by a wide margin, falling short by more than 6,600 soldiers. The Army National Guard, Army Reserve, Navy Reserve and Air National Guard also all missed their recruiting goals, each pulling in less than 90 percent of their targets.
While some divisions of the armed forces did meet their year-end goals, even some in the military admit the situation is worse than it may appear. An article in Stars and Stripes notes:
But the active-duty Army shortfall — they recruited about 4,000 fewer soldiers than in fiscal 2004 — is especially troubling because the service has already widened its recruit pool to accept older candidates and those with lower test scores, according to Mike Reilly, vice president of operations at the Center for Security Policy.
“You can’t compare these numbers to the ones from last year, because you have to understand what they did to get these new numbers,” he said. “They’ve really gone down more than just what the difference is.”
From NYC Indymedia: At least 18 grandmothers opposed to the war in Iraq were arrested today at the Times Square Armed Forces Recruiting Station. The women were attempting to enlist at the station but found the door locked. Supporters gathered around the station while those trying to enlist sat down in front of the door and were soon arrested. Joan Wile, founder of the group “Grandmothers Against the War,” and one of those arrested, said via a statement; “people are dying in this awful war every day. If someone has to die, I would rather it be somebody like me – who has had the opportunity to live a long life – instead of some young person.” Click here for more photos by Fred Askew from the protest.
The Nation’s Ryan Grim has an excellent roundup of the campus counterrecruitment movement, which has picked up right where it left off last semester:
Though it’s still early in the 2005-06
school year, the counterrecruiting movement has picked up serious steam
nationwide, and is being met with angry–sometimes violent–reactions.
"It’s getting really ugly," says Liz Rivera Goldstein, chair of the National Network Opposing
Militarization of Youth and a mother of two draft-age sons.
The New York Civil LIberties Union reports that freshman at Hutchinson Technical High School in Buffalo, New York are automatically enrolled in a JROTC program, despite protests from parents and civil liberties groups.
No Child Left Behind (NCLB) which gives the military unprecedented
access to students. Students and parents may
withhold their contact information from the military and must be given
adequate time to do so – but whether parents and students at Hutch Tech know that they may opt out.
More information and documents related to the Hutch Tech policy,
and information about other issues relating to military recruitment and
students’ rights, are available at http://milrec.nyclu.org.
From Mother Jones’ Mojo Blog:
- Thanks to Louisiana Senator David Vitter, the No Child Left Behind Act contains a clause which requires schools to give military recruiters the names, addresses, and telephone numbers of high school students. As most people have heard by now, parents may opt their adolescents out of this process. However, No Child Left Behind also provides that schools that do not hand over the information are subject to losing federal funding.
In Florida’s Duval County, school officials have made a bargain with parents: It’s okay to opt your kids out of the military recruiter list, but if you do so, your teenager’s photo will not appear in the yearbook, and she will not be listed in sports activities or on the honor roll. Where I come from, this practice is known as extortion, but I’m sure the Pentagon sees it as negotiation. Duval County officials, though they believe they are operating within the confines of the law, have agreed to make some changes next year, which would give parents more options. However, these changes do not appear to effect the “negotiation” aspect of the process.
From guest contributor John Tarleton of The Indypendent:
- “Whatever I can do to help, I’m here to do,” says Drill Sergeant Alex Self.
Self, however, isn’t stationed in Iraq or Ft. Jackson, South Carolina where he previously prepared recruits for the rigors of military life. Instead, he’s been cast in a supporting role alongside Hall-of-Fame linebacker Dick Butkus in a reality TV show about a smalltown high school football team that’s trying to change it’s losing ways.
“Bound For Glory”, which airs on ESPN Tuesdays at 10 p.m., follows the ups and downs of the Montour (PA.) Spartans, which finished last season with a 1-8 record. Butkus and former Denver Broncos cornerback Ray Crockett are the coaches while Self is in charge of physical and mental conditioning. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence, but the economically devastated town where the show takes place is fertile ground for military recruiters.
Self, who paces the practice field in full military uniform including his Smokey the Bear drill sergeant’s hat, is currently featured on the goarmy.com website. In his weekly journal he never misses a chance to note the similarities between football and the Army, including the fact that soldiers and football players both drink a lot of water. He also makes the best of his chance to talk up the Army.
“One thing I find interesting,” he writes, “is that they [the players] are absolutely curious about the Army. I get questions like, ‘Have you ever killed anyone? Have you ever killed anyone with your bare hands?’ They don’t understand what we actually do. It’s a good opportunity to tell them what we really do.”
The military will now be taking more recruits who get low scores on military aptitude tests. Until now, the armed forces have been admitting no more than 2% of the recruiting class from enlistees who get a Category IV score, the lowest test score above a failing grade. That’ll be upped to 4%.
"The Department of Defense is clearly getting desperate for new
recruits," Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-Palo Alto) of
California told MTV.com. Eshoo has co-sponsored a bill dubbed the Student Privacy
Protection Act of 2005, which, if passed into law, would change a
provision in the No Child Left Behind Act that allows military
recruiters easy access to student information courtesy of their high
U.S. Army spokesperson Douglas Smith has another take on the incredibly low recruiting numbers.
"We’re not in gloom mode," Smith said.
"We’re just looking to open up opportunities
to more people. We want to open up the Army to as wide
an audience as we can."
Someone else with quite a bit of military experience, however, acknowledges that the military is up against it. Retired General Barry McCaffrey told Keith Olbermann of MSNBC’s Countdown "Well, you know, we’re having some very significant recruiting difficulties. There’s no question." McCaffrey went on:
short 7,000 troops this year. Those are 7,000 privates that won’t show
up in our brigades next year, not 7,000 colonels. So, this is a
tremendous shortfall. And it is even more significant and severe in
the National Guard, which I think is starting to melt down.
the problem is the U.S. armed forces are at war. And so is the CIA,
but the country is not at war. The recruiting challenge is principals,
congressman, mayors and parents, not Marine and Army recruiting
But there are still those who insist all’s well, as long as we don’t look behind the curtain. In an "opinion" piece on the CBS News site, Stephen Spruiell of the National Review pins down the real reasons for the recruiting shortfalls: Cindy Sheehan.
"[The media] are glamorizing Cindy Sheehan and the hundreds of crosses she and
her supporters plant wherever they protest — crosses that bear the
names of the fallen without the permission of their families.
The media, by and large, prefer to convey the recruiting shortfall
as a function of the nation’s antiwar sentiment that, to them, Cindy
Sheehan symbolizes. To report that it is more a function of the booming
economy would force them to admit that the economy is in fact doing
well, which they are loath to do."
I’d love to hear where Spruiell thinks this "booming economy" is. The wealth gap and income inequality are on a steady rise. Consumer spending is down – the Conference Board recently reported that consumer confidence suffered its biggest drop
in 15 years in September. Unemployment is up. Plus, all this talk about the economy makes it damn hard for anyone to argue with a straight face that we don’t have a poverty draft in this country.
Spruiell also points to the retention rates as a good indicator that everything’s hunky dory in the military. "[All] of the services met or exceeded their retention
goals for the year, with particularly high rates in key combat brigades
overseas. Such high rates of reenlistment attest to a belief among the
soldiers in what we are doing in Iraq is making us safer and a desire
to help that country set up a functioning government that guarantees
the Iraqi people a better way of life than they had under Saddam."
Or, as you can see in a stunning scene in the new movie Occupation Dreamland, soldiers are berated, intimidated, and harrassed into reenlisting after being told that there’s nothing for them at home, that no one will understand them, and that they’ll be homeless and jobless if they don’t sign up again. Doesn’t sound terribly voluntary to me.