September 17, 2007

Who's Buying Army Volunteers?

In late August, Jules Witcover was “fired” from his longtime job at the Baltimore Sun, and while no one editor would take credit for Witcover’s departure, I can only thank them. Hopefully we won’t have too many more of his diatribes against all things military and Bush; in the meantime while Witcover is looking for a new home since only 30 papers around the world carry his column, he graces us with this little gem which first appears in print on September 10, 2007.

Witcover displaying his hatred of the US Military and misinformation on Iraq all but calls today’s volunteers’ mercenaries and blasts Uncle Sam as a nothing more than a legal pimp, luring in the ignorant with promises of a quick payout.

Witcover writes:

Buying Army Volunteers

Those familiar old Army recruiting posters showing Uncle Sam pointing his finger and saying he “needs you” need repainting — to show him holding up a fistful of dollars as an inducement.

With the war in Iraq taking its toll on recruitment of new enlistees for the all-volunteer Army, he is now ante-ing up bonuses of as much as $15,000 for a two-year sign-up and $25,000 for three years.

The bonuses are being offered to meet the fiscal-year target for the end of this month of 80,000 new troops, part of Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ goal of increasing Army strength by 65,000 to 547,000 in five years, according to The Associated Press.
Ed Note: Three of the four services met or exceeded recruiting goals for June. The Army recruited 7,031 soldiers, which is 84 percent of its goal of 8,400. The Navy finished with 3,999 recruits for 102 percent. Their goal was 3,924. The Marine Corps recruited 4,113 new Marines reaching 110 percent of its goal of 3,742, and the Air Force met its goal of 2,233 recruits. The Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force met or exceeded overall retention missions. Five of the six reserve components met or exceeded their recruiting goals in June. The Army National Guard recruited 5,342 soldiers surpassing its goal of 5,338. The Army Reserve and Navy Reserve finished at 108 percent with 5,255 and 1,013 recruits, respectively. The Marine Corps Reserve recruited 1,078 Marines surpassing its goal of 986 at 109 percent. The Air National Guard was the only reserve component to miss its goal finishing at 75 percent with 779 of its goal of 1,036. The Air Force Reserve met its goal of 597 recruits. And, for June, Army National Guard retention was 107 percent of the cumulative goal of 26,405, and Air National Guard retention was 98 percent of its cumulative goal of 8,430. Both the Army and Air Guard are currently at 101 and 99 percent of their end strength, respectively. Losses in all reserve components for May are well within acceptable limits. Indications are that trend will continue into June. (Source)

The latest wrinkle in bonus lure to young Americans is what is called the “quick ship” inducement — $20,000 payout to enlistees who agree to drop whatever they’ve been doing and ship out for basic training within 30 days. It’s a commentary on the urgency with which the Army is addressing its challenge to meet the annual target at a time an unpopular war is being waged by a severely stretched military establishment.

While the circumstance is not entirely tied to the U.S. involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan, no less an authority than Gen. David Petraeus, the architect of the Bush administration’s troop surge, is talking openly of the stress it is placing on the U.S. military.

Ed Note: The Army topped its August goal by 6 percent, bringing 10,126 new soldiers into the force. Furthermore, the Army made 102 percent of its goal in July. Army Maj. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commander of U.S. Army Recruiting Command, attributes much of the rebound to the Army’s new “quick-ship” bonus program that provides $20,000 in financial incentives for recruits willing to ship off quickly to basic training. In fact on the same day that this commentary appeared in print the Department of Defense released its August recruitment numbers with this chart:

Somehow, I don’t see this as a bad thing as the Witcover mentions but ignores, the Quick Ship bonus only is paid to enlistees that agree to ship to basic quickly (30 days from enlistment) instead of taking a delayed entry program. For most enlistees that means simply they will be graduating from Basic Training up to 30 days sooner than if they had waited. Hardly the major commentary on the failure of the All-Volunteer Army that Witcover claims it to be.

In recent days leading up to his much-anticipated progress report on the surge, Petraeus has acknowledged that 30,000 troop buildup cannot be continued indefinitely, and that it has taxed the endurance of the soldiers and national guardsmen involved, and their families at home.

Ed Note: As if 12 years in Bosnia hasn’t done that either.

A particular problem in this uncommon war that has fallen heavily on reservists who are not full-time soldiers is the disruptive aspect of their service not only in their own lives, but also in those left behind, often including new children.

Unlike World War II for example, when participants enlisted or were called for the duration of the war, no matter how long it lasted, the volunteer army including the guardsmen and reservists have limits on their tours in the combat zone. On one hand they cling to their civilian existence, but on the other they are subject to repeated callbacks that inject constant uncertainty for themselves and their disrupted families.

And yet for reasons unexplored by Witcover he completely ignores the fact that every service is experiencing retention rates higher than ever before.

A measure of the challenge for the Army in meeting the annual manpower target is the fact that its staff of trained recruiters is being raised from 8,000 to as many as 10,000 in the effort to spur enlistment, at a time many parents and other relatives are trying to talk their loved ones out of signing up, with the Iraq war again a factor.

The obvious solution would be reinstatement of the military draft, which met the manpower needs of the nation in World Wars I and II, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Democratic Rep. Charles Rangel of New York has long advocated it as a more equitable way of sharing the burden in wartime, but so far there has been little support in Congress for it.

And yet the Pentagon also rejects the call for a draft. On August 13, 2007 a full month before Witcover wrote this piece Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said “There is absolutely no consideration being given to reinstituting a draft. The all-volunteer force has surpassed all of the expectations of its founders,” Whitman said. “The volunteer force is more experienced, more motivated to serve and reenlist. It’s more educated, has a higher aptitude, and all of that means a higher performance and increased readiness. (The all-volunteer force) has served this country well for 30 years, and we expect it to continue to do so well into the future.”

In a war in which most Americans other than those in uniform and their families are not being asked to make much of a sacrifice, a draft would be out of step with the business-as-usual atmosphere that prevails.

Believers in the all-voluntary Army argue it has produced a higher quality of soldiers, though as the Iraq War has dragged on, the Army has lowered certain educational and medical standards for enlistment.

The absence of a draft has been one way of dampening down public protest against the war. Its existence during the Vietnam years probably did as much or more than any other factor in the anti-war protests of the time in drawing millions of draft-age youths in the streets, clamoring for an end of the American participation.

And that is the crux of Witcover’s argument, not enough people are “inconvenienced” by the war to be against it. It’s a travesty for Witcover that the anti-war movement just doesn’t have enough people to pull from to fill its ranks if not everyone is directly affected by the possibility of serving in uniform, whether that service is in Iraq or stateside, and that means the anti-war movement is still filled with the ranks of those who have never served and hate America. Despite Mr. Witcover’s assertion, the absence of a draft is not an attempt by the administration to “dampen down public protest” its 34 years of public policy designed to remove the specter of forced conscription, upon its male population.

Instead, more than 30 years later, Uncle Sam instead of relying on the stick of conscription holds out the carrot bonuses of up to $25,000 to buy the military service of his sons and daughters in a war most of America today doesn’t believe in.

And yet, the numbers suggest otherwise, those that chose to serve are doing so not because they have no other options but because they want to be a part of something important. They overwhelmingly believe in the mission and they overwhelmingly support the President, two points that Mr. Witcover can not even begin to comprehend. In Mr. Witcover’s shrinking world support for the President is non-existent because to do so indicates some sort of mental illness on the part of the supporter, and to support the mission means you believe in war for the sake of war.

Somehow, in his alternate reality, the idea of forced conscription is better than the current system of rewarding voluntary enlistment. I wonder what Mr. Witcover would say to a newspaper that offered him $20,000 to begin writing for them as a home paper today instead of waiting 30 days? Or should we expect that it’s better for a newspaper to demand that Witcover begin writing for them without any compensation, after all in his world, forced conscription is better than voluntary service.

Trackbacked by;
H&I* Fires 18 SEP 2007 from Argghhh! The Home Of Two Of Jonah's Military Guys.

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