|BEING ALL THEY CAN BE?|
March 12, 1999
Why is the U.S. Army having such a tough time finding new recruits? Following a background report, Elizabeth Farnsworth and guests discuss the Army's search for a few more good men and women.
TOM BEARDEN: Even though today's U.S. Army is much smaller than its Cold War days, it has soldiers stationed in many more overseas deployments. Americans are keeping the peace in Bosnia, helping relief efforts in Africa and Central America, and this week, Congress debated whether to send 4,000 American soldiers to Kosovo as part of a NATO peacekeeping force. The problem is that the Army is already having a hard time getting enough people to join the service.
SPOKESMAN: The committee will be in order.
TOM BEARDEN: One of the objections raised in yesterday's debate in the House of Representatives was whether yet another mission would degrade the readiness of an already short-staffed military.
REP. SUE MYRICK, (R) North Carolina: To put it simply, our forces are stretched too thin around the globe to commit four or five thousands troops in an effort whose end is nowhere in sight.
|The Army's new ad campaign.|
TOM BEARDEN: The Army has launched an advertising campaign to encourage more young people to enlist. This year, the Army's goal is to recruit nearly 75,000 new soldiers, but officers say they're likely to fall short by perhaps 7,000 recruits. Already in fiscal year 1999, the Army is 2,000 soldiers shy of its target. The Navy and Air Force have similar problems and are also beefing up recruiting. Only the Marines are meeting their goals.
COMMERCIAL: According to a national survey, employers are looking for people who can handle heavy responsibilities.
TOM BEARDEN: The television, radio, and billboard advertising campaign tries to link a tour in the Army to success later in civilian life.
COMMERCIAL: Which is why some of the most successful people in the white collar world start off green.
SGT. CLIFTON MAGWOOD, U.S. Army Recruiter: Today's Army. May I help you?
TOM BEARDEN: The services have hired hundreds of new recruiters to man storefront offices in cities across America. Sergeant Clifton Magwood has been worked in a northeast Washington, DC office since 1991. He offered an explanation for the drop in new enlistees.
SGT. CLIFTON MAGWOOD: Yes, recruitment is down right now. The economy is doing pretty well. People have a lot of other opportunities. But at the same time, the Army is still presenting a lot of great opportunities, educational benefits, and training, to keep pace with today's modernization.
TOM BEARDEN: Magwood and his fellow recruiters have their own incentives to offer, like signing bonuses of up to $12,000, as much as $50,000 for college expenses, or up to $65,000 to pay back college loans. Just last month, in its first act since completing the impeachment trial, the Senate offered still another recruiting enticement: A 4.8 percent pay raise for all 1.4 million military personnel on active duty. That was more than the president had requested. Proponents, including Majority Leader Trent Lott, said it, too, would help boost recruitment.
SEN. TRENT LOTT: If we do not raise the pay for our military men and women, they will not come to the military. They will not volunteer.
SEN. JOHN WARNER: Let's go.
TOM BEARDEN: Some have suggested lowering the standards for enlisting in the Army. One proposal: Accept more high school dropouts, as long as they have a high school equivalency or GED, and pass the Armed Forces Qualifications Test. Current Army rules say 90 percent of recruits must have a high school diploma.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And for more now, we are joined by Louis Caldera, Secretary of the Army - he's a West Point graduate who served as an Army officer from 1978 to 1983; Lawrence Korb, Assistant Secretary of Defense during the Reagan administration, and now a vice president at the Council on Foreign Relations; and Charles Moskos, Professor of Sociology at Northwestern University -- he has written widely about the military, and does research for the Army. Mr. Secretary, how serious is the problem? What kind of units, for example, have shortfalls?
LOUIS CALDERA, Secretary of the Army: Well, there is an impact on readiness and on manning the units if you can't recruit the force. It's not a critical shortage at this point because we're only about 2,000 short for this fiscal year. The real challenge is going to come in future years. Our mission this year was only 75,000, but next year it's going to be 84,000, so we really have to be able to connect with America's youth. And frankly, I think we need to talk to more young people just about the nature of military service as an obligation of citizenship, that it's one of the things that you ought to do and not just a great experience because you'll earn money for college or you'll get a skill, but because you'll grow as an American, to have had that opportunity to serve your country in uniform.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay, I'll come back to what should be done. Is this affecting your ability right now to take care of all of these different obligations, Bosnia and perhaps Kosovo, for example?
LOUIS CALDERA: No, it hasn't had that kind of impact. We're able to do all of those missions and do them well because of the capacity that we have both in our training base and the ability to draw down from our delayed entry pool. The impact of this would continue to be in the future and we're taking steps to try to make sure it doesn't.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Moskos, can you give us examples of what this is doing to units in other branches of the service?
CHARLES MOSKOS, Northwestern University: All the services, except the Marines, are now facing -- recruitment difficulties. Even the Air Force, and it really is against the laws of God and Nature for the Air Force to have recruitment difficulties -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Because it's so rare?
CHARLES MOSKOS: It's so rare.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And they're short of pilots, aren't they?
CHARLES MOSKOS: Yes. Even in World War II, by the way, they prohibited volunteering for the Air Force because -- Air Corps at that time -- because so many people wanted to stay out of the ground forces of the Army. No. It is a problem, and by the way, for the first time in a generation, you're hearing talk of bringing back the draft. That's I think how serious the issue is. And the recruiters are saying the problems are going to be even more awesome in the middle future.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Lawrence Korb, do you think it's a serious problem?
|A serious problem?|
LAWRENCE KORB, Council on Foreign Relations: Well, I don't think it's a serious problem. I think it's a problem that can be managed. For example, the Navy was the only service last year that missed its recruiting goal, but what people forget is they cut the number of recruiters last year and raised the number of people they wanted to bring in. This year the Navy has added more recruiters, and they're meeting their goals. I think what's happened is since the Cold War ended, the military and the country hasn't come up with a coherent message for what the military is all about. This problem was masked for the past several years because the military was downsizing, didn't need to bring in as many people. And they cut back on their advertising, cut back on the number of recruiters. And they're trying to turn it around now as the demands increase because the force has leveled off, and it's going to take a while before all the advertising, the extra recruiters pay off. I don't think it's any reason for panic. I think it's a problem that can be handled, as it was back in the late 70's early 80's.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Secretary Caldera, why do you think there's a problem?
LOUIS CALDERA: I think it is a problem that we can handle. I think that -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But I mean, what do you think is causing it?
LOUIS CALDERA: Well, the reasons are one, a strong economy, which means that young people have work options if they decide not to go straight to college. Second, because so many young Americans are going from high school into college -- there's been a 20 percent increase over the last decade. That's good news for America, but it means that our core recruiting market, non-college-bound high school graduates, is a shrinking market and we're all trying to access the same market at the same time. That's why I think it's important that we look at our GED market and find those who are GED holders who have the desire and the ability to serve successfully in the Army. We're great trainers, and we can take those individuals who've shown that they are trainable, because they've had the gumption to go back and get that GED, and give them the opportunity to serve and turn their lives around.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And Mr. Secretary, what about the point that Mr. Korb made, that there's not a strong statement of mission and of purpose for the military right now? Is that a factor?
LAWRENCE KORB: I think it is a factor in that fewer people have served and so fewer people can either talk from their own personal experience about what it meant for them to have served in uniform or understand the nature of our current military strategy. But it's an important thing for Americans to understand because it's -- although we're prepared to fight and win our nation's wars, we're also involved in an engagement strategy around the world, building goodwill for the United States, deterring aggression, promoting peace and stability, by doing things like peacekeeping, helping our neighbors out in Central America, being ready to go into Kosovo, those are important ways to prevent wars, but it means you've got to have people in uniform willing to do those tough jobs.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Moskos, what do you see? There have been a lot of factors mentioned that might have caused this falloff in recruiting. What do you see as the key factor?
|The citizen soldier.|
CHARLES MOSKOS: The key factor, the philosophical factor is that the concept of a citizen soldier has been lost sight of in the all-volunteer force and in recruitment campaigns. It's not the economy. That's -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Explain what you mean.
CHARLES MOSKOS: It's the long enlistment. Typically the services like to recruit people for three or four or more years. This is not going to attract, as Secretary Caldera said, the college student.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: That's what you mean by citizen soldier. You can't have a citizen soldier if it's that long a period.
CHARLES MOSKOS: That's right. By the way, it should also be also brought out I'm a former draftee, so I was one of those citizen soldiers. I think many college youths would welcome the opportunity for a short enlistment, say fifteen months, six months of training then an overseas assignment. Rather than looking upon it as a burden, which the current force does because much of it is married, the single young men and women I think would look at this as a break in the academic routine, particularly if it were associated with generous GI Bill benefits, particularly say, forgiving student loans and things of that sort. So rather than seeing it as an onerous thing, I got to go overseas, thank God I am going overseas. I think that would be a tremendous appeal. And we have to shift our thinking not to look just at the high school graduate or even the high school dropout, but look at the growing market, which is the college student and the college graduate.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Mr. Korb, what do you think about that? And does this new emphasis on peacekeeping attract or repel people?
LAWRENCE KORB: Actually, those who serve in these peacekeeping operations in the Army and the Marine Corps have a higher reenlistment rate than the rest of the service, and so this idea that they're leaving because they have to do these things just isn't true. Simply, you've got a larger percentage of the Army today is in the continental United States than during the Cold War. The other factor that hasn't been mentioned here is that, during the good years for recruiting, when we downsized in the early 90's, all of the services raised their standards for people coming in much higher than they had at any time during the Cold War. To give you an example, ten years ago the navy had 11 percent people who scored slightly below average on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Today they take none. I think they're going to have to adjust their standards to be more realistic, given the changing job market and given what's happened with the economy. There's no reason why the same quality force that went into the Persian Gulf, which had a lot more people who scored below average on this Armed Forces Qualification Test, could not be recruited today.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: So, Mr. Korb, do you agree with Secretary Caldera, that more people who have a GED but not a high school diploma should be able to be in the military? I think it's 10 percent now in the Army right, only, can be in if you have a GED, no more than 10 percent. Should that percentage be raised?
LAWRENCE KORB: Yes, I think Secretary Caldera and Secretary Danzig of the Navy are on the right track when they're saying, let's not just look at the high school diploma; let's look at a lot of other factors. I mean, we got ourselves into this bind in the early 80's when Congress first passed a law saying how many high school graduates you had to take, and then as we got more and more college graduates, the services on their own raised the standards. There's no reason why you have to get 95 percent or 90 percent high school graduates. All during the Cold War, the Army was -- in the 80's, in the decade of the 80's and that was the finest Army we ever had. That was the Army we sent to the Persian Gulf.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: What do you think about that?
CHARLES MOSKOS: I think we're beginning to hear the rationalization for lowering quality. This is what occurred in the 1970's and we're beginning to hear this.
LAWRENCE KORB: No, Charlie, that was the 80's, not the 70's. I'm talking about the 80's when we really did well -- not the 70's.
|Looking to the college student.|
CHARLES MOSKOS: Larry, let me just say, though, rather than looking down at the high school -- the person who hasn't completed high school-- and there are obviously many good people-- why don't we look at the larger picture, which is the college student, the college graduate. These, by the way, are where the future leaders of America are going to come from. And if they had a formative citizenship experience, this would be good for both the armed services and the country. This idea now of let's look at high school dropouts, and it may have merit on it, but when it comes on the back of recruitment shortfalls, people already showing some disaffection of enlisting in the service.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Let me just get something clear, why do don't the Marines have trouble recruiting?
CHARLES MOSKOS: Marines is a special niche. They're smaller, they have with a special image and that's why I don't think they have a problem.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you think that's the case?
LOUIS CALDERA: That's right, they recruit far fewer members than we have to in the Army so it's easier to make their mission and they have a very specific kind of individual that they're going after. We have to go across the whole base of support, positions that people have to be able to fill, as well. So it's a little bit different. We're recruiting seventy/eighty thousand; they're recruiting in the thirty thousands.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And go ahead. You wanted to respond, too.
LOUIS CALDERA: Yes. May I say, first of all, I don't disagree that we ought to go after more of our college-enrolled and college-bound graduates because it is important to talk to young people. It's not just a role that those who can't afford college fulfill to be of service to their country. Short enlistments do present a problem in terms of high turnover in units, and so the terms of unit training and readiness that you can't go too short, and you won't get the return on the training investment that you need to make. But it's not --going after the GED market and segmenting that market and finding those individuals who want to serve passionately is not lowering standards; it's defining quality standards that make sense. There's nothing in and of being a high school graduate that in and of itself makes you a great candidate. In fact, some of our high school graduates score lower on mental category tests; that is, they rank in the lower half, whereas our GED that we take, we don't take anybody except those that are in the top half.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: And it would bring in more minorities, right?
LOUIS CALDERA: Well, it would also help in us terms of recruiting minorities, and that's particularly important with respect to Hispanic Americans because of low high school graduation rate, which is a terrible problem that has to be addressed, you have about a 55 percent high school graduation rate. Many of those who leave, leave for economic reasons, in order to work and help out at home. So, they've got a strong work ethic, strong family values. They actually have twice as high propensity to serve, desire to serve as most American youths. They have the highest attention rates, the lowest attrition rates and yet we're not able to access them because we have ruled ourselves out of the market.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: One second. Mr. Korb, if the economy stays very good and these other factors continue and this problem is not solved, is the draft an option?
LAWRENCE KORB: Oh, no. I mean -- you know, this is -
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Not politically feasible, you mean?
LAWRENCE KORB: Well, I mean it's not only not politically feasible, it just doesn't make sense, given the way in which we want people to serve longer. This is a very professional force, and to say you've had one year in which your standards were higher than they've ever been in history in a great economy that you want to go back to the draft is trying to, you know, kill an ant with an elephant or something. It's a way, way overreaction.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Do you agree with that, Mr. Moskos? We just have a few seconds.
CHARLES MOSKOS: I don't. One fact that has to quickly be brought out is that one out of three service members today does not complete his or her enlistment. It's much better to serve a shorter tour honorably with a citizen soldier ethic than try to recruit everybody as a soldier.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: But you agree that the draft is not an option?
CHARLES MOSKOS: Politically, it's not feasible. There are practical questions as well. But, philosophically it's a good concept.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Okay well -- go ahead.
LOUIS CALDERA: I think voluntar service, talking to young people about voluntary military service, and its importance for our nation is much better than compulsory service. We want them, but we want them for the right reasons.
ELIZABETH FARNSWORTH: Well, thank you gentlemen all very much.