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US military may recruit foreigners to serve

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1226/dailyUpdate.html?s=mesdu posted December 26, 2006 at 11:30 a.m. US military may recruit foreigners to serve Pentagon
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 26, 2006

      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
      larger goal.

      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.
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