Don’t Dumb Down the Army
Kelly Greenhill, a Wesleyan political scientist and fellow at Harvard, is worried by recent statistics showing that the Army is dealing with its difficulties in recruiting by accepting more people in the lowest quartile (Cat-IV) on its aptitude test.
She bolsters her case by extensive reference to a social experiment from the Vietnam era:
Four decades ago, during the Vietnam War, Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara created Project 100,000, a program intended to help the approximately 300,000 men who annually failed the Armed Forces Qualification Test for reasons of aptitude. The idea behind Mr. McNamara’s scheme was that the military would annually absorb 100,000 of the country’s “subterranean poor” — people who would otherwise be rejected.
Using a variety of “educational and medical techniques,” the Pentagon would “salvage” these Category IV recruits first for military careers and later for more productive roles in society. Project 100,000 recruits — known as New Standards Men — would then return to civilian life with new skills and aptitudes that would allow them to “reverse the downward spiral of human decay.”
Mr. McNamara further concluded that the best way to demonstrate that the induction of New Standards Men would prove beneficial was to keep their status hidden from their commanders. In other words, Project 100,000 was a blind experiment run on the military amid the escalation of hostilities in Southeast Asia.
Needless to say the experiment, which was discontinued in 1971, failed. Not only was it a disaster for the military, it didn’t even provide the promised benefits for the New Standards Men upon return to civilian life.
There are few with any significant experience with or knowledge of modern warfare who would disagree with Greenhill. Unfortunately, it is a simple fact of life that a volunteer military will have fluctuating standards depending on the military and economic climate of the day.
There are no good solutions to this fact. We could reinstitute the draft, which would not only be politically unpopular but present all manner of problems militarily. We could bolster pay and benefits for soldiers or recruit non-citizens more heavily, turning the force into a mercenary Army. Neither of those alternatives is better than the current practice.
Related links in the extended entry.
Elsewhere: James Joyner, “Backdoor Draft?” TCS, 11 January 2005.
OTB: Military Personnel, General
Join the Army or Go to Jail?
Reserve Captain Fulfills Contract, Can’t Resign
Army Stop-Loss Program Forces 50,000 into Extended Duty
Pentagon Report: Army Near Breaking Point
Pentagon Weighs Guard and Reserve Cuts
Myth of the Underprivileged Soldier
9th Circuit Won’t Stop Guardsman’s Deployment
Soldiers Sue over Extended Enlistments
A Military Stretched Thin
OTB: Military Recruiting
Counter-Recruiting Efforts Anger Pentagon
Military Recruiting Shortfall Hits Key Jobs Hardest
Military Attracting Fewer Black, Urban Recruits
Army Doubles Idiot Quotient
Army Recruiting High School Dropouts without GED
Defense Department Seeks to Raise Enlistment Age to 42
Pentagon Creating Student Database for Recruiting
Army Keeping Problem Soldiers to Keep Troop Levels Up
Army Using Video Game as Recruiting Tool
Army Offers 15-Month Enlistment Option
Army Taking Recruiting Holiday
Blue to Green Moving Slowly
Army Recruiters Say They Feel Pressure to Bend Rules
Recruiting Soldiers During Wartime Difficult
Military Recruiters Target Friends and Family
Recruiting During Wartime
RECRUTING AND MORALE
Army Not Punishing AWOL IRR Members
Backdoor Draft? Reservists May Face Longer Tours of Duty
IRR Call-Ups Slow to Report
Army to Call Up Recruits Earlier
Reserve System Needs Change
Further IRR Call-Up Expected
IRR Call-Up Redux
IRR Call-Up Scam III
IRR Call-Up Scam II
IRR Call-Up Scam
Leaving the Military Reserves
Correction: Corrected the math above. In both cases, my argument was actually slightly strengthened by proper calculation.