October 24, the American edition of The Economist once again touched upon the recruitment of new recruits to the US Army. The material on this major problem received the appropriate title: Who will fight the next war? (“Who will fight in the next war?”). A sad abstract for the army is added to the not very optimistic heading. The authors claim that the failures in Afghanistan and Iraq have widened the gap between the military and most Americans.
The publication material The Economist begins with a "field research". The authors of the article talked to Sergeant Russell Haney. This soldier works at a recruitment center located in the Clayton County County shopping center (Georgia) and engages volunteers to join the army. The sergeant notes that most people really show interest in serving in the army. According to him, many adolescents roaming the mall, can be interested in agitation.
For example, 19-year-old football player Leminf admitted to journalists that the information of the recruitment point made him think about possible service in the army. Dsinnna 18 years, in turn, is also interested in the proposals of Sergeant Haney, although he does not want to go to war. Archela and Lily, a brother and sister from the Virgin Islands, have attracted opportunities to receive education and vocational training, as well as other advantages of serving in the army. The sergeant declares: “you don't want a job, you want a career!” And then he recalls historywhen a passerby treated a soldier with cookies in gratitude for the defense of his homeland.
The authors of the article remind that the southern US states are poorer than others. As for Clayton County, it is distinguished by a large number of black inhabitants, as well as a long tradition of military service. So, last year only from Clayton County to the army went as many recruits as from all of Atlanta. Nevertheless, even such successes of Sergeant Haney do not yet look convincing and are not satisfied with the armed forces.
One of the secrets of Sergeant Haney lies in the "southern manners", which he uses when communicating with potential recruits. However, it seems that many interested in the service will not sign the contract. So, Leminfa has a tattoo behind the ear that blocks his way into the army. Dsinna has a small child who cannot be left without care, and her brother and sister, Arcel and Lily, are unlikely to join the army because of family problems. According to Russell Haney, even that cookie donor was not so simple. In words, the sergeant believes, everyone is ready to support the army and praise it. However, when it comes to a service contract, people act differently.
Journalists from The Economist say that American society likes to organize demonstrations that show respect for the army and the willingness to help it. There are several public holidays and various festive events are held regularly. Moreover, all such things are not able to lead to the desired result.
In the past fiscal year, which ended on September 30, the US military recruited 177 from thousands of recruits between the ages of 17 and 21. Despite the relatively large number of new contract soldiers, various types of armed forces had to fight for them. For example, the ground forces planned to recruit 17,3 thousand people, but did not get about 2 thousand. To solve this problem, the army had to "cut off" part of the plan for the next year. At present, the Pentagon is solving the task of creating an army reserve, which will ensure the required defensive capability in the conditions of a reduction in the army. Not so long ago, 566 thousand people served in the army. By the end of the decade, it is planned to reduce the number of personnel to 440 thousands.
Despite Sergeant Haney’s pessimism, the leadership of the recruitment structure tends to be more restrained in evaluating campaigns. Major General Jeffrey Snow, in charge of contract recruitment, calls the current situation amazing. The US Army participated in two protracted military operations involving ground forces, and the population, in turn, tends to praise it. At the same time, less than 1% of Americans not only can, but also wish to serve.
All this, according to journalists, is fully consistent with the trend that appeared several decades ago. The gap between society and the army is constantly growing for a number of reasons, the main of which is the cancellation of conscription in 1973. After this decision, the number of citizens who went through military service began to decline rapidly. So, in 1990, at 40% of youth, at least one of the parents served in the army. By 2014, this figure fell to 16% and continues to decline. It is noteworthy that similar trends are observed among the political elite. In 1981, 64% of congressmen had military service experience. Now in Congress no more than 18% of former military personnel.
On the trends in the recruitment of recruits could affect some "seasonal factors." It could be various events in the labor market, as well as negative press reviews on operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. The consequence of all these things can be dark moods in society, not conducive to the growth in the number of recruits.
There are also some concerns directly related to the approach to the construction of the armed forces. Soon after the Second World War, there was an ambiguous trend in which the military remained the subject of admiration and almost never been criticized. Former army officer and military expert Andrew Basevich calls the current “militarism” of American society superficial and fraudulent. Taking advantage of the attention and respect of society and politicians, the military leadership had too many privileges and carried too little responsibility, such as in recent military companies. In addition, in this context, another question arises: will the United States be able to respond to a possible threat and carry out the required mobilization?
During the Korean War, the American army served about 70% of people of military age. Over time, their share declined sharply, aided by attitudes in society and the relative ease of evading service. Thus, during the Vietnam War, only 43% of the total number to be conscripted served. To date, the share of potential recruits has fallen again. Less than 30% of potential recruits will be able to sign a contract and enter the service.
The authors of The Economist give curious figures that reflect the current situation. The age requirements of the armed forces correspond to about 21 million people. About 9,5 million will not be able to go into the army because of the banal problems with education, because they did not even finish high school. In addition, many Americans are no longer able to solve complex math problems without using a calculator. Another 7 million people will not be in the army because of health problems, criminal record or tattoos on the exposed parts of the body.
Sergeant Haney admits that about half of the potential recruits in his district have some kind of physical or legal problem. His boss, Lt. Col. Tony Parilli, comments on the situation more easily, but goes global: America is obese.
Thus, out of 21 million people who could come to recruitment points, no more than 4,5 million can serve. Of these, no more than 390 thousands think about serving in the army, although there is a risk that they, having a good education and professional skills, will receive lucrative offers from employers. As a result, the number of potential recruits is again reduced, and besides, the army receives not the best specialists.
Journalists from The Economist point out another not very pleasant trend. Despite the "mantra" that the army in the recruitment of people competes with major companies such as Google or Microsoft, in reality the situation looks different. The American elite long ago turned away from the army. An exception can be considered only recruits who enter the service following the example of their parents, but there are no more than a few hundred per year. As a result, only 10% of new contract employees have higher education, and about half belong to ethnic minorities.
The number of potential recruits leaves much to be desired even in a situation of reduction in the number of armed forces and their financing. An additional factor affecting the number of contractors is the low unemployment rate. In this situation, the army must change its requirements for recruits or attract them with benefits. In the middle of the last decade, amid low unemployment and bad News from Iraq, the military was forced to use both of these strategies. The result was the adoption of about 2% of contract workers who did not fully comply with standard requirements. In addition, monetary allowance grew. In 2008, the total cost of these needs reached $ 860 million.
To date, the salary costs, which make up about a quarter of the defense budget, have decreased. However, the remaining “bonuses” for contract servicemen are still of great interest and attract potential recruits. For example, salaries and other payments in comparison with 2000 year increased by 90%.
Communicating with Sergeant Haney, a journalist with The Economist, asked a simple and logical question: what will the school graduate expect if he signs a contract for military service? The sergeant replied: the recruit will receive housing, food and medical insurance. In addition, the army will allocate 78 thousand dollars to pay for college tuition, and some of this money can be spent on training a relative. Also, the recruit will undergo vocational training, the results of which may take one of the 46 places with "fat" additional conditions. It is possible that such a proposal is really able to interest the American youth, while not having accurate plans for the future.
Percentage of persons aged 17 to 24 years unsuitable for military service, by state
Journalists say that with the existence of a large number of bad jobs and a reduction in wages, the army’s proposal is quite capable of attracting young people. Nevertheless, such lucrative offers are “sold” poorly, aided by the previous failures of the army. After the end of the Vietnam War, the United States with various successes participated in several armed conflicts of various scales. Thus, during the Gulf War, the total losses of the American army did not exceed a few hundred people. However, even minimal losses excite and frighten potential recruits. Often people forget that wars are always accompanied by victims and because of this they come to conclusions that do not suit the army.
Forgetting these features of the fighting, the American public was shocked by the results of operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Over several years, more than 5,3, thousands of soldiers and officers, died in these countries, tens of thousands were injured. One of the leaders of the Army Marketing Program, James Ortiz, said that most young Americans associate military service with unpleasant consequences. Young people believe that the soldier is returning home with physical, mental and emotional trauma. A survey conducted at the DM Therrell School (Atlanta) showed that potential recruits do not like violence and therefore agree to join the army only when absolutely necessary.
An additional factor that complicates the relationship between the army and society is the fact that in recent years the armed forces in their advertisements have used only the theme of money allowances and various benefits. As a result, according to J. Ortiz, people do not understand and do not appreciate the army. Last year, a new advertising campaign called the Enterprise Army was launched. Its goal is to change the attitude of society to the armed forces. It will take several years to achieve the required results. The majority of the population is skeptical about military service. To change this situation will be extremely difficult. However, the military simply has no choice. Under the existing situation in the world and in the light of new threats, the army should be able to carry out all the assigned tasks, including through mobilizing a reserve. In recent decades, the authors recall, the main prerequisite to the superiority of the US armed forces was high-precision weapons. Now such systems are available to a wide range of armies, as well as large armed groups.
For the wars of the future may need a large and numerous army. To build such armed forces, it is likely that it will be necessary to restructure the existing system, as well as to change the attitude of society. Andrew Krepinevich, a specialist at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, asks: can we have the strength that we need? And immediately gives the answer: probably not. Now the United States has to rely only on people who are ready to fight for protection.
As you can see, the American press continues to discuss one of the topics that remain relevant over the past few decades. The number of contract recruits is constantly decreasing and regularly sets up new anti-records. For example, last year, the ground forces had to sacrifice plans for the next year to fulfill their existing plans. How the military will look for a way out in the near future is not completely understood.
Apparently, army service has lost its former prestige and no longer attracts young people. This is connected both with the problems of the armed forces, first of all with the unsuccessful campaigns of recent times, and with the change of attitudes in society. Young people have new guidelines and goals, among which there is no military service. As a result, the number of people willing to go into the army is reduced, despite all the efforts of the command.
The question from the title of the article for many years worried about the military and political leadership of the United States. In the event of the beginning of a major armed conflict, which will require a significant increase in the size of the army, it will be necessary to use all available reserves with dubious prospects for their further replenishment. At the same time, no one has proposed workable methods of overcoming the existing crisis. After the abolition of compulsory recruitment in the early seventies, the number of recruits is constantly reduced. This trend continues to this day and is unlikely to disappear in the foreseeable future.
Article "Who will fight the next war?":