Disco is Back OR Hollowing the Army

ABC News is reporting that senior US Army officials want to expand the size of the active duty force by 60,000 individuals in future fiscal years. This is a good way to continue having the US Army see its rock bottom days of the mid-70s again as it already is seeing brigades train for combat deployment with no equipment and only half of its authorized manpower, bases are seeing their electricity reduced because the support commands can not pay the bills, and recruiting standards have already dropped.

There are two basic ways to increase the size of the US Army. The first is to increase the intake of new individuals. The second is to slow the outflow of individuals who are already in the system. I will address the first, and then the second issue. The FY05 recruitment pool was held to near peacetime standards (high school graduate, average or better intelligence, no major trouble with the law, in pretty good health, and young), and these standards led to an a shortfall of roughly 8,000 individuals for the US Army. In the past fiscal year, the Army has adapted several changes. Some of these changes are neutral to force quality — handing out larger bonuses, engaging in more targetted marketing, increasing the number of recruiters, while other changes have lowered the average quality of recruit. These changes increasing the acceptable age of recruits to 42 years old, doubling or tripling the number of recruits with significantly below average test scores, and a massive increase in moral/criminal waivers. The US Army for its marginal recruits have lost their preferred marginal recruits to Wal-Mart and McDonalds since 2005 and thus have had to go to people with even fewer options to fulfill the demand.

Tom’s Dispatch has an excellent arthttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.quote.gif
insert blockquoteicle on the twelve signs of a cracking Army. I want to highlight a single example as it focuses on maintaining individuals within the force pool.

4. Rubber-Stamp Promotions

Earlier this year, the Army admitted that, to maintain desperately needed numbers, it was forgoing almost any measure of quality when it came to its officer corps. According to 2005 Pentagon figures, 97% of all eligible captains were promoted to major — a significant jump from the already historically high average of 70-80%. “The problem here is that you’re not knocking off the bottom 20%,” one high-ranking Army officer at the Pentagon told the Los Angeles Times. “Basically, if you haven’t been court-martialed, you’re going to be promoted to major.” Despite near-guaranteed promotions, the San Antonio Express-News reported that the “Army expects to be short 2,500 captains and majors this year, with the number rising to 3,300 in 2007.”

This minimal wash-out rate expands to basic training and other more advanced training schools. The military is not for everyone, and individual skill sets do not always match with the needs of the service. From roughly 1980 to 2003, the US Army often would try to seperate without prejudice individuals who were not a good fit for the Army. That has fundamentally stopped. Once an individual has signed on the dotted lines, the Army is determined to keep them in uniform no matter what.

These are the conditions that exist for the current US Army. If the US Army tries to expand by 60,000 slots, it means some combination of peace breaking out and a recession occurring will drive high quality recruits into the recruiters’ office, and keep high quality officers in uniform, OR a further dropping of internal quality control and a further lowering of incoming recruiting standards.

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