Not surprisingly, with a troubled economy, and the reduction on casualties in Iraq, the propensity to consider military service is rising in America’s youth, and that has allowed the Army to be more selective about who it enlists.
Last year, 99% of recruits had a high school diploma before entering the service, up from 91% in 2006, when fighting in Iraq was near its peak and the economy was stronger.
The increased interest in the armed forces means recruiters can be choosier about whom they let into the military.
The laws of supply and demand for labor work for the military just like any other business. As the Army becomes a more attractive option for potential recruits, the Army benefits in a couple different ways. The obvious is that they can raise the standards of whom they will accept. There’s also that fact that the Army doesn’t have to offer as much bonus money for enlistment.
Higher quality recruits tend to be more successful in their first enlistments. They’re easier to train, less likely to be discipline problems, and more likely to show initiative on the battlefield. They also tend to reenlist at slightly greater rates, and make better Non-Commissioned Officers. And retaining the quality of the NCO corps is absolutely critical to the long term success of the Army.
On other factor is, with the higher quality of recruits available, the other problem WNU links to also is mitigated.
So far this year, the U.S. Navy has expelled a dozen midshipmen (cadets from the Naval Academy) for using legal recreational drugs. It’s not just the cadets who are getting caught. In February, 16 sailors got the boot from the military, for using or selling synthetic drugs, in this case a marijuana-like item called “Spice.” The sailors were assigned to an amphibious carrier (USS Bataan). Currently, 30-40 sailors a month are caught using synthetic drugs. This includes midshipmen at the Naval Academy who were expelled. They are all in the navy, until the navy finds out you are using spice.
While that article focuses on the Navy, the Army faces similar challenges. But in an era of rising recruiting standards, such incidents are both less likely, and the services find it far easier to discharge quickly those who fail to meet the standards.
When I was a recruiter, our leadership was very explicit about not hoping for a recession just to boost recruiting. No one wants that. But given that we are in a recession, the Army would be foolish not to capitalize on the opportunities presented.