Pentagon Creating Student Database for Recruiting
The Washington Post fronts a report that the military is collecting information on all high school students aged 16 to 18 to better target recruiting efforts.
Pentagon Creating Student Database (WaPo, A1)
The Defense Department began working yesterday with a private marketing firm to create a database of high school students ages 16 to 18 and all college students to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches. The program is provoking a furor among privacy advocates. The new database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade-point averages, ethnicity and what subjects the students are studying.
The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze large amounts of data to target potential customers based on their personal profiles and habits. “The purpose of the system . . . is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service,” according to the official notice of the program. Privacy advocates said the plan appeared to be an effort to circumvent laws that restrict the government’s right to collect or hold citizen information by turning to private firms to do the work.
Some information on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country. School systems that fail to provide that information risk losing federal funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information that would be transferred to the military by their districts. John Moriarty, president of the PTA at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, said the issue has “generated a great deal of angst” among many parents participating in an e-mail discussion group.
Under the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial data brokers, state drivers’ license records and other sources, including information already held by the military.
“Using multiple sources allows the compilation of a more complete list of eligible candidates to join the military,” according to written statements provided by Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke in response to questions. “This program is important because it helps bolster the effectiveness of all the services’ recruiting and retention efforts.”
It’s rather ironic that federal law requires this information be given for military recruiting purposes at the same time that it is recognizing the demand for privacy in the form of such things as the national No Call list. That said, aside from the NCLB provisions, the only “new” thing here is that the military is essentially doing what all other firms engaged in marketing have done for years: collect the best available information on its client base.
When I was a junior in high school, more than twenty years ago now [Geezer! -ed.], we spent a school day taking the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB). So far as I can recall, it was not voluntary. Within a couple of months, and not ceasing until well after I started college, I was deluged with calls from all four military services offering me various enlistment bonuses. It was aggravating and, in hindsight, questionable. Still, it was far less intrusive than the draft I would have been subject to a decade prior.
The nation needs a sizable pool of talented young people to serve in its military. I’m not sure enduring a few phone calls is too high a price to pay to help achieve that goal.