Lately, the military services — especially the Army — have been facing a bit of a problem: For the past few years, the National Defense Authorization Act passed by Congress has included growing the number of troops for each service.
In earlier times, this wouldn’t have been a problem — there were plenty of qualified American youth willing to enlist. Now, it is a struggle to fill the ranks with new recruits.
The majority of youth today are unable to pass the rigorous screening process to enlist in the military for a multitude of reasons. Drug use — both prescribed and illegal — and obesity are two of the biggest factors that preclude today’s youth from enlisting, along with a plethora of health issues that seem to plague this younger generation. This is followed closely by an apparent inability of many to score very high on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test.
When I was on recruiting duty, we used to joke that prospects score 10 points on the test just for spelling their name right. Sadly, the number of applicants unable to score even 10 points on the ASVAB has grown significantly since my time pounding the pavement for recruits.
Another major issue in filling the ranks is a declining population of youth who are willing to volunteer. Active dislike for the military hasn’t been this high among those of age to join the military since the Vietnam War.
Add all these things together, and you’ll find, according to 2017 Pentagon data, only 29 pcercent of Americans ages 17 to 24 are even qualified to enlist.
There are a few schools of thought on how to correct this problem. One is to require all youth — upon turning 18 and graduating high school — to serve some sort of federal service similar to what some countries, such as Israel, already require.
I think this is unlikely to work out very well, primarily for the above reasons.
Another idea is to bring back the draft. Personally, I’m not a big fan of the idea of reinstituting the draft, because I think it would foster an active hatred of the military in a generation known for its ability to protest anything at the drop of a hat. But it would give the services the ability to choose potential draftees who actually have the intelligence and morals to serve, however reluctantly.
Whether or not a draft is a good idea, it is one being debated to fill the ranks at a time when more bodies — especially intelligent ones — are needed. Shoot me an email and let me know what your thoughts are on the subject.
David A. BRYANT is an Army retiree and a military journalist for the Killeen Daily Herald. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 254-501-7554.