Thursday, March 17, 2005

Draft Watch: US Army asks for longer enlistments

The Army is continuing to look for ways to make up for shortfalls in enlistment, especially amongst the national guard and reserves. This is the latest. US Army asks for longer enlistments as recruitment numbers fall
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Army has asked Congress to allow it to extend enlistment contracts offered to future soldiers by two years in order to "stabilize the force," as top defense officials warned that key recruitment targets for the year could be missed.

The request came as the House of Representatives on Wednesday put its stamp of approval on an 81.4-billion-dollar supplemental spending bill that contains new benefits for US troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But the new money notwithstanding, Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Franklin Hagenbeck told a House subcommittee that yearly recruitment goals for the Army reserve and the National Guard were "at risk."

"In the manning area, we need Congress to change the maximum enlistment time from six years to eight years in order to help stabilize the force for longer periods of time," Hagenbeck went on to say.

The appeal coincided with the release of a new congressional report that showed that the intensifying anti-American insurgency in Iraq and continued violence in Afghanistan were followed by a distinct drop in the number of volunteers willing to serve in the branches of the military that see the most combat.

The Army reserve and Army National Guard respectively met only 87 percent and 80 percent of their overall recruiting goals in the first quarter of fiscal 2005, according to the study by the Government Accountability Office, the investigative arm of Congress.

The Air Force Reserve attained 91 percent of its target, the Air National Guard 71 percent and the Navy Reserve 77 percent.

The shortfalls could potentially have a noticeable effect on units operating in Iraq, Afghanistan and surrounding areas because, according to defense officials, reservists and guardsmen make up about 46 percent of the total force deployed there.
But, as the article notes, the reserves and national guard aren't the only one's feeling the pinch.
Recruitment problems are beginning to dog even active duty units that have not experienced them in a long time.

The Marine Corps, whose reputation for efficiency and toughness has always helped it attract ambitious young men and women, missed its goal by 84 recruits in January and another 192 in February for the first time in 10 years, the GAO report said.

"There is no disputing the fact that the force is facing challenges," acknowledged Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Charles Abell.

The obvious cooling off in Americans' interest in military service is observed despite multiplying benefits and financial enticements offered by the Pentagon to those signing up for service.
Why would my generation voluntarily sign up to fight for the Bush Administration, which has lied to the public to go to war, and has lied at every stage since then regarding the conditions on the ground? The answer increasingly is, they won't. There comes a point where no financial incentives will encourage people to enlist, so then what?

The article ends with this:
Army reserve commander Lieutenant General James Helmly warned in January that with lengthy and grueling deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, the reserve is rapidly turning into "a broken force" and may not be able to meet its operational requirements in the future.
Are we really willing to risk our reserve capabilities so that we can avoid bringing back the draft, with all of the political ramifications that it is bound to have? Could the Bush Administration really be negligant enough to endanger our country in such a flagrant way? Unfortunately, the answer is probablly yes.