posted December 26, 2006 at 11:30 a.m.
US military may recruit foreigners to serve
Pentagon considering several 'disputed proposals'
including fast-track citizenship for volunteers.
By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com
Struggling to fill its depleted ranks using American
citizenry, the US military is considering recruiting
more non-US citizens, according to Pentagon officials.
The Boston Globe reports that this will include
"disputed proposals" like opening recruiting offices
overseas and fast-tracking foreigners who join the
military for US citizenship.
Foreign citizens serving in the US military is a
highly charged issue, which could expose the Pentagon
to criticism that it is essentially using mercenaries
to defend the country. Other analysts voice concern
that a large contingent of noncitizens under arms
could jeopardize national security or reflect badly on
Americans' willingness to serve in uniform.
The idea of signing up foreigners who are seeking US
citizenship is gaining traction as a way to address a
critical need for the Pentagon, while fully absorbing
some of the roughly one million immigrants that enter
the United States legally each year.
The Globe reports that the idea is not without
precedent in American history. During the
Revolutionary and Civil Wars, foreigners fought in
large numbers alongside native-born troops. But one
Army official privately expressed concern about the
idea, saying it would "smack of the decline of the
American empire" - a comparison to the last days of
the Roman Empire when its emperors were forced to use
foreigners to fight its wars because not enough Roman
citizens would volunteer to fight.
Earlier this month, however, The Associated Press
reported that the Pentagon announced that "the Navy
and Air Force met their recruiting goals last month
while the Army and Marine Corps exceeded theirs."
The Army, which is bearing the brunt of the work in
Iraq, did the best. It signed up 6,485 new recruits in
November compared with its target of 6,150 meaning
105 percent of its goal.
All the services turned in similar performances in
October as well, meaning they so far are meeting their
goals for the 2007 budget year that began Oct. 1.
Channel CBS 5 in San Francisco reports that one big
reason for this results is that all branches of the
military are offering rich financial rewards for those
enlisting, as much as $40,000 in some cases. The
Kalamazoo Gazette reports on another reason the
military has raised the age limit at which men and
women can enlist. In 2005 the age limit was 35 since
then, the Army has raised it to 42, while the other
branches of the military have set it at 40.
In October, AP reported on a third reason for the
increase in recruitment during the year - lower
standards in those being recruited. The US Army, for
instance, was able to recruit 2,600 more soldiers
using the lower aptitude standards.
Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington
Institute, a private research group, said there is a
"fine balance between the need for a certain number of
recruits and the standards you set."
"Tests don't tell you the answer to the most critical
question for the Army, how will you do in combat?"
Goure said. But, he added, accepting too many recruits
with low test scores could increase training costs and
leave technical jobs unfilled.
The National Priorities Project (NPP), a research
group studying the impact of federal spending policies
at the community level, reported Friday that despite
meeting many of its quantitative goals for 2006, the
military fell far below meeting its qualitative goals.
In 2004, 61 percent of active-duty Army recruits were
'high quality,' according to DoD criteria. In 2006,
while the Army filled its ranks, only 47 percent
less than half were 'high quality,' according to the
same DoD criteria.
The percentage of new recruits who were regular high
school graduates (tier 1 in [Department of Defense
(DoD)] parlance) dropped from 84 percent in 2005 to 73
percent in 2006, again falling short of the 90 percent
benchmark established by the DoD after decades of
research and experience. The percentage in 2004 was 86
percent. Put another way, the percentage of recruits
with alternative credentials grew from 13 percent in
2004 to 16 percent in 2005 to 27 percent in 2006, or
doubling in just two years.
The NPP also reports that wealthy neighborhoods (with
a median household income of $60,000 or more) were
more under-represented in recruiting in 2006 while
lower- and middle-income areas were over-represented.
The Los Angeles Times reports that there is at least
one way to increase the military that remains off the
table: reinstating the draft.
"We've been at it for 30-plus years," said Theodore
Stroup Jr., a retired lieutenant general and former
head of the Army personnel system. "We do not want to
go back to a draft."
Supporters of the volunteer force say it is of much
higher quality than that of the draft era, which ended
in 1973. Critics, however, suggest that the Army
already has lowered its standards to meet recruiting
goals and would have to lower them even more to meet a
Despite the military's support of an all-volunteer
force, expanding its size will be expensive. Military
experts say that the Pentagon should be able to add
10,000 new troops during the coming year using greater
incentives and advertising to boost enrollment, but
doing so will cost an additional $1.2 billion.