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November 3, 2007
By: Kevin Drum

RECRUITING....The Army continues to have serious recruiting problems. One guess about the reason why. Blue Girl has the details.

Kevin Drum 2:04 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (25)

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As a reference point... what's the typical historical recruiting level for a low unemployment rate environment? Do military recruiting levels stay constant regardless of the unemployment rate or do they generally go down when the unemployment rate drops?

Posted by: pencarrow on November 3, 2007 at 4:18 AM | PERMALINK

(Loosely related -- see full article for details.) About that "mistakenly" nuclear-armed, US Air Force B-52 flight:

Missing Nukes: Treason of the Highest Order
By Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya [Global Research]

According to a wide range of reports, several nuclear bombs were "lost" for 36 hours after taking off August 29/30, 2007 on a "cross-country journey" across the U.S., from U.S.A.F Base Minot in North Dakota to U.S.A.F. Base Barksdale in Louisiana. [1] Reportedly, in total there were six W80-1 nuclear warheads armed on AGM-129 Advanced Cruise Missiles (ACMs) that were "lost." [2] The story was first reported by the Military Times, after military servicemen leaked the story. ...

According to official reports, the U.S. Air Force pilots did not know that they were carrying weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Once in Louisiana, they also left the nuclear weapons unsecured on the runway for several hours. [4]

U.S. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Plans, and Requirements, Major-General Richard Y. Newton III commented on the incident, saying there was an "unprecedented" series of procedural errors, which revealed "an erosion of adherence to weapons-handling standards." [5]

These statements are misleading. The lax security was not the result of procedural negligence within the U.S. Air Force, but rather the consequence of a deliberate tampering of these procedures. ...

... unauthorized removal of nuclear weapons would be virtually impossible to accomplish unless the chain of command were bypassed, involving, in this case, the deliberate tampering of the paperwork and tracking procedures. ...

[Emphasis in original.]

Posted by: Poilu on November 3, 2007 at 4:30 AM | PERMALINK

Directly related:

Behind the Facade of Incompetence
By Charles Sullivan

It is clear that the US media moguls would have us believe that the catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq was a sincere effort to promote freedom and democracy in the Middle East, gone awry. But we must remember that everything associated with capitalism is about marketing: making the people believe that things and events are the opposite of what they really are, and creating artificial wants that neither benefit the individual nor society, while simultaneously embellishing corporate profits.

This understanding would have been equally evident in the mainstream media's buildup to the war had we a less propagandized, better read, and more informed citizenry. Even the politically nave should have known that Saddam Hussein's threat to the US, so vividly hyped in the media, was pure marketing propaganda.

But the majority of the people bought it, and now we have no choice but to live with our purchase. Short of a major social upheaval, we are going to be in Iraq for a very long time, and the death toll will continue to rise, especially for the Iraqis -- the unwilling recipients of our corporate benevolence delivered through carpet bombs, terror, and torture. For these are the undeniable legacy of our foreign policies, and the illegal, amoral, acquisition of property by blunt force trauma. ...

Posted by: Poilu on November 3, 2007 at 4:46 AM | PERMALINK

penncarrow: what's the typical historical recruiting level for a low unemployment rate environment?

is that with or without...

a "battle of civlizations"..

Posted by: mr. irony on November 3, 2007 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

"I dream of the day when public schools have all the money they need and the Pentagon needs to hold a bake sale to raise money."
--Bella Abzug

Posted by: Quotation Man on November 3, 2007 at 9:35 AM | PERMALINK


Posted by: mhr on November 3, 2007 at 10:31 AM | PERMALINK

The Army continues to have serious recruiting problems. One guess about the reason why

Cowards like mhr won't enlist?

Posted by: DJ on November 3, 2007 at 10:36 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

A few obversations:

1. The economy just added 166,000 new jobs yesterday, blowing past all forecasts. The economy has been growing gangbusters, thanks in large part to President Bush's policies. When you have solid growth in the economy, its natural that recrutment will decline somewhat
2. The surge has been a success beyond wildest expectations. At this point, recrutment is not as important because we can make due with what we've got.
3. Recrutment isn't as important now as in the past. This is because of augmentation from private contractors.

Sorry to burst your bubble.

Posted by: egbert on November 3, 2007 at 10:56 AM | PERMALINK

America in the 1930's: The Triumph of Isolationism

By 1940 the U.S. population is 131.7 million. In April Germany overruns Denmark in one day, and Norway takes only one month. Belgium, the Netherlands and France fall quickly as well. Thousands of British and French soldiers are saved by the miracle of Dunkirk and evacuated back to England. By June 22 the French have capitulated. The British now stand alone, and Churchill faces the future with grim resolution, looking toward the U.S. for help.

The U.S. institutes first ever peacetime draft, begins rearming.

May-June FDR calls for increased military expenditures, releases outdated military equipment to Great Britain. $43 million worth sent in June alone.

20 June. FDR names Republicans Henry Stimson and Frank Knox to War and Navy postsspirit of cooperation in the face of crisis. Still the internationalist-isolationist debate goes on. Many clubs and organizations urge non-involvement. As war grows closer, FDR falls behind public opinion, perhaps from over-concern with isolationists like Lindbergh.

1940 Presidential Election: A third term for FDR a major issue. Much isolationist sentiment among Republicans. No Democratic challengers to FDR, the man above the fray. Willkie too close to FDR on most issues to draw any distinction. FDRs promise: I have said it before, and I will say it again and again and again. Your boys are not going to be sent to fight in any foreign wars.

Posted by: anonymous on November 3, 2007 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

Actually, mhr, those liberal Founding Fathers of ours would have preferred that the standing army be exactly zero. But, fascists like yourself aren't too good with American history, are you?

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 3, 2007 at 12:38 PM | PERMALINK

Now that Pakistan is under martial law, all those billions in taxpayer money that Bush gave to the little dictator Musharraf seems like more money real well-spent. Could Bush have fucked up this world any more than he has??

Posted by: The Conservative Deflator on November 3, 2007 at 12:44 PM | PERMALINK

Recruiting bonuses not big enough. Make the bonus as big as half a year's salary for a Blackwater employee.

Once in Iraq, give a soldier money for each Iraqi killed. I think $500.00 ought to do it--there are still so many of them, we can't afford to be too crazy with the money. Or we could give reward points, the army equivalent of airline miles or My Coke Rewards. It could be My Iraq Rewards. By the time you've killed 10 Iraqis you've got enough points for a yearlong subscription to Sports Illustrated.

Posted by: Anon on November 3, 2007 at 2:30 PM | PERMALINK

Blue girl is knowledgable about the military, but she is so partisan that it is hard to rely upon her largely subjective assessment.

It seems like the predictors of recruiting failures have been around for the past few years and their prognostications have not be correct.

But I assume the miliary competes with the rest of the job market and there are a variety of factors at work. Kevin's one guess comment reflects his liberal anti-military bias, premised largely on his inability to understand why any people join the military in the face of this war. It is, of course, much more complicated than that. If we need to enhance compensation/bonus to meet recruiting needs, so be it.

Posted by: brian on November 3, 2007 at 4:40 PM | PERMALINK

brian: It seems like the predictors of recruiting failures have been around for the past few years and their prognostications have not be correct.

considering in 2005 the amount spent for bonuses was 8-times its budget and was a staggering 400+ million dollars...

people are just jumping at the chance to be on extended tours of iraq and afghanistan...

400+ million...

just for bonuses...

what happened in 2006?

Army pays $1B to recruit, retain soldiers - USATODAY.com 4/11/2007

double from the year before?

sure looks like expensive work...

for a battle of civilizations...

Posted by: mr. irony on November 3, 2007 at 5:40 PM | PERMALINK

Mr. Irony:

What is your point? I said that if we need to enhance compensation/bonus to meet recruiting needs, so be it. We need the military, and whatever it takes to recruit sufficent members will need to be spent.

Posted by: brian on November 3, 2007 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

Contrast the Army's FY07 target of 80,000 new recruits with retention targets (details here): FY07 62,200; FY06 64,200; FY05 64,162; FY04 56,100; FY03 51,000; FY02 56,800; FY01 64,000; FY00 68,000. Interesting trend...

The retention targets (and actual retention) for FY00 exceed those of any year since; targets and actuals declined until FY03, starting to rise again with FY04, and fell again in FY07. One would think that with a war, retention targets would have increased, not decreased.

A generous interpretation is that the Army figured out its force structure was ill-suited to demand, and the the falling retention targets were a controlled attrition of the unneeded.

A cynical interpretation is that the retention targets are artifically low, so everyone can claim (see link above) they've exceeded their retention targets.

There's also the fact that if sufficient numbers were locked-in in preceding years, retention targets for subsequent years could be decreased. Even with that, it's still hard to believe that targets would drop between FY06 and FY07, especially given the trend in preceding years.

Either the folks at the top have no clue, or they're gaming the numbers. This does not bode well for our future military.

Posted by: has407 on November 3, 2007 at 7:12 PM | PERMALINK


First the Army lowered its standards for recruits in order to make its goal. Then they increased bonuses by a ton and as blue girl said they raided the deferred enlistments for next year to meet this year's goal. They're running out of ways to juggle the books.


On December 6, 1941, the country, both conservatives and liberals, was mostly isolationist. That explains the size of the Army on Dec 7.

On Sept 11, 2001, the country, both liberals and conservatives, were united in wanting to strike back at those who attacked us. Bush's unnecessary, wasteful, mismanaged war in Iraq explains why recruiting is so hard in 2007.

Posted by: tomeck on November 3, 2007 at 7:21 PM | PERMALINK

tomeck...good point on the lowering of standards for recruits...

the army has historically taken less than 5% of recruits that fail entry tests..now they are taking in 3-times that number...

brian..is it because they are nice guys?

and don't forget.....the military hiked the age limit..


first to 35...then to 42...

add that to soaring bonuses...to 1-billion in 2006 from less than 100-million two years earlier..

smells like desperation...

and isn't that what you want..in "a battle of cvilizations"..?

Posted by: mr. irony on November 4, 2007 at 6:07 AM | PERMALINK

Well gee, I gues those guys leaving the military just didn't see the importance of "our vital National" and "our economic security", billion dollar embassy or military bases or not.

Only big corporations, unbid contract security firms, Hunt oil, politicans and Kevin Drum find that (someone else) dying for economic security is important. It seems to me that American is so much poorer for having gotten into this war to begin with, now gasloine is much higher due to taking out Saddam, and it'll stay that way, thanks to Bush for destablizing the Mideast.

Posted by: Me_again on November 4, 2007 at 7:47 AM | PERMALINK

Ah, Kevin.

The surge has been the greatest military success in all of human history, and George Bush is second only to Jesus Christ as the greatest man ever, and the economy continues to create millions of new jobs every minute, and we'll never run out of oil because God supports the American Standard of Living, and...

Posted by: Pompous Troll on November 4, 2007 at 3:04 PM | PERMALINK

My first comment here after following this blog for several years...
The popular myth still exists that on December 8th, 1941, the US went to full wartime production.
In actuality, Roosevelt had held a meeting in November 1938 which laid the basis for the increases in aircraft production and the multitude of actions that needed to be taken to increase steel, aluminum, etc. production.
Some random thoughts on recruiting..
Are people enlisting because of a lack of funding for college..tied in with a lack of good paying jobs to earn college money? Also, how fair is it to dangle 20,000 in front of a high school senior when to so many of them war is nothing more than a PlayStation game?
Regarding retention..during the Vietnam era, the tours spent in RVN weren't NEARLY comparable to what is demanded of the Army and Marine Corps today. Also, the use of Guard and Reserve forces in the Vietnam era was miniscule compared to Iraq/ Afghanistan. In fact, the Army was structured after Vietnam to require the significant use of Guard and Reserve forces to ensure that there would be public support for any further large scale activations..ala WWII; although I have no figures to base this on, the Guard and Reserves will probably also have MASSIVE retention difficulties, as they get roughly half of their personnel from the ranks of those coming off active duty.
My back ground: Vietnam era vet, served as a photo interpreter and in the SIGINT field. IMHO the whole wiretap contoversy is a no brainer.. it is totally unconscionable and illegal! To all the egberts, mhrs, et al...no personal invective; but mya YOUR name appear on a no fly list and YOU have to remove it.

Posted by: Phil on November 4, 2007 at 6:10 PM | PERMALINK

Good comments, Phil. And now they are dangling that $20 K in front of high school dropouts. I wouldn't be surprised if that's not adding to the retention problem among junior officers. They were trained to expect a certain level of competence and commitment among the troops and with that falling off then their jobs become much harder.

And don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to knock the troops, just saying that when the Army "waives" in people with criminal records and a lack of education, then you've got to expect some problems.

Posted by: tomeck on November 4, 2007 at 8:26 PM | PERMALINK

Potentially more series than failing to meet the enlistment quotas – the poor retention rate of junior officers. The Wing Nuts keep seeing the army supports this war, but the lieutenants and captains are voting with their feet.

Posted by: fafner1 on November 4, 2007 at 9:09 PM | PERMALINK

I'm in no position to criticize junior and mid-level officers who leave the service because of how things are going, but you have to wonder; if all the intelligent and ethical officers are leaving, what are we left with to form the senior levels of command in ten years' time?

Posted by: thersites on November 4, 2007 at 9:25 PM | PERMALINK

you have to wonder; if all the intelligent and ethical officers are leaving, what are we left with to form the senior levels of command in ten years' time?

Well, the last time it happened, you ended up with Colin Powell. Didn't that go well.

Posted by: ajay on November 5, 2007 at 5:22 AM | PERMALINK



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