Two weeks ago, the Pentagon announced the "good news" that the Army had met its recruiting goal for October, the first month in a five-year plan to add 65,000 new soldiers to the ranks by 2012.
But Pentagon statistics show the Army met that goal by accepting a higher percentage of enlistees with criminal records, drug or alcohol problems, or health conditions that would have ordinarily disqualified them from service.
In each fiscal year since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, statisics show, the Army has accepted a growing percentage of recruits who do not meet its own minimum fitness standards. The October statistics show that at least 1 of every 5 recruits required a waiver to join the service, leading military analysts to conclude that the Army is lowering standards more than it has in decades. [Emphasis in the original]
What is particularly interesting (and perhaps frightening) is the breakdown on the use of the required waivers:
...Of the 6,434 enlistees who signed up last month, 792, or 12.3 percent, required waivers for past criminal activity that would have disqualified them, including misdemeanor and felony convictions, according to Army data. ...
The share of new recruits granted waivers for medical reasons, such as failing Army physical fitness standards or for testing positive for marijuana or cocaine use, has also soared in the past five years.
The percentage of medical waivers more than doubled, from 4.1 percent in 2003 to 8.6 percent last month. Drug or alcohol abuse waivers increased by half, from 1 percent in 2003 to 1.5 percent last month.
The article notes that the failed drug tests occurred during the recruitment process, which means some of these recruits were using right up to the date they were sworn in, which certainly does not bode well for success in basic training.
I'm not suggesting that troubled kids shouldn't be given an opportunity to turn their lives around, but I don't think the US Army should be the rehab center of choice. I thought we learned that lesson back in the 1960's Viet Nam era.
Unfortunately, the Army finds itself between a rock and a hard place, thanks to the White House decision to run two wars at once and to run them badly. Not only is regular recruitment difficult, retention of already trained personnel is almost impossible. The Army is as close to being broken (if it isn't actually broken) than it ever has been.
Heckuva job, George.
Labels: The Military