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.