Murphy's Law: August 14, 2001


The U.S. armed forces say they are meeting their recruiting goals. Technically, they are. But they are using the ancient tactic of sacrificing quality in order to maintain quantity. Standards have been lowered. The army insists that they can overcome the quality issues by developing new training, and training methods, to bring formerly ineligible recruits up to an acceptable standard. Much of this has to do with taking kids who did not perform well in school and getting them educated real quick (as in basic literacy and ability to do simple math.) But the larger problem is one of attitude. Most of the recruits who do not make it out of basic training, or are discharged a few months after basic, do so because they never understand the need for discipline or following orders. It's a problem with middle class kids, as well as those who came from less well supported backgrounds. It's an interesting challenge for the army, but is filling the ranks with many sub-standard soldiers. The navy's problem is similar, but made worse because the recruiters and the people who run basic ("boot camp") are from different organizations. The recruiters cook the books as they paper over shortcomings of the recruits they send on to the trainers at boot camp. These unqualified recruits then proceed to flunk out of boot camp in large numbers. So while the navy is making its numbers, there is still a sailor shortage in the fleet because so many of the new recruits don't make it through initial training. The "recruiting/retention" problem has been tossed into the hopper along with everything else the new Bush administration is considering as it formulates a new military policy. So far, it appears that this issue may be resolved by cutting manpower levels, so as to maintain quality.


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