If I Were President, Episode #3

The newspapers are filled with news about how hard it is for the Army to find foot soldiers for duty in Iraq. It’s ironic that the USA has over 2 million people serving in active duty roles in all branches of the military, but we have great difficulty fielding more that 130,000 fighting men in Iraq. This fact of military organization is metaphorically known as “the point of the spear”. The idea being that it takes an even larger pool of cooks, logistics officers, car pool mechanics, administrative assistants, and others in total to field a large group of fighters. I can’t remember the exact ratio, but the number is something like 2 or 3 support people are required for each fighter man on patrol.

Because we have such a tough time finding decent people, I think we should make a few changes. First, the military requires recruits to be permanent US residents and high-school graduates who pass the ASFAB test. There are two ends of this equation that we can tinker with to better fill the ranks. Here’s the equation, (permanent US resident or citizen) + (HS Diploma + ASFAB) = potential recruit.

Part 1. Internal Recruiting

Ironically, the Army and Marines have a tough time recruiting within the USA in the areas of highest unemployment because all those guys loafing on the street corner are high school drop outs. This goes for the inner city, the barrio, the trailer park, and the reservation. It seems simple to me that the Army and Marines (but not the Navy, Air Force, or Coast Guard) should be empowered to set up a remedial education command (REMEDCOM perhaps?) to train guys who aren’t stupid, but also aren’t graduates. The Army and Marines are already looking at increasing their recruiting bonuses and GI Bill benefits in the 10’s of thousands. Why not spend ten or twenty thousand to give a new demographic of recruits the remedial training to get them to a point where they’re usable by the Service?

Part 2. External Recruiting

On the other side of the equation, we have the limitation to recruit only among citizens or permanent residents or residents of territories or very closely allied countries like the Marshall Islands (total population: ~60,000).

I believe this limitation should be lifted and that the Army & Marines should be allowed to build a Latin Corps (a corps is a unit consisting of two or more divisions, usually containing at least 20,000 but possibly many more). The Latin Corp would (and I know that this will turn the stomach of those who place socially conservative ideology above pragmatism) be an all-Spanish unit (sorry, Brazil, no Portugese) and would be strictly limited to infantry operations. The Corp would also require that anyone promoted beyond E-3 (that’s a private first class) would have to speak English. The currently level of pay and cash benefits could be reevaluated for the Latin Corp, since most of the soldiers would likely return to their home countries after service. In that case, a $40,000 GI Bill award for college might be overkill. Still, the USA could provide very handsomely for a serviceman from Guatemala, El Salvadore, or rural Mexico compared to their current level of opportunity. It also might impact illegal immigration levels, especially if the government wanted to give the Latin Corp any other benefits, such as a fast-track to a green card upon an honorable discharge.

Some people might be alarmed that a foreigner would be able to act as a spy or a double-agent. First of all, these soldiers won’t be coming from every country on the planet. Second, the USA has actually had a limited version of this policy in place for a long time. To date, foreigners serving for the US armed forces (and there are thousands of them) haven’t misbehaved any more than citizens have. In addition, these soldiers won’t be engaged in extremely high-value soldiering. They won’t be in a position to sell state secrets about missile technologies or anything like that.

A follow-on idea to the Latin Corp would be to allow recruiting of non-citizens in countries of the West Indies where English is spoken, such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Barbados, and even Belize. Recruits from these countries could be integrated directly into standing armed forces.

Crazy thoughts, I know. But I think that one of the great failings of our current political climate is “business as usual”. The more our politicians try to solve the same issues in the same old ways, the more stale and entrenched the problems become. Of course, “out of the box” solutions like the ones I propose almost certainly entail all new problems that we’ve never encountered before, but at least we’ll be making forward progress.

So what’s your take on it?

Best regards,

-Kevin

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