Thursday, June 19, 2008

Army Guard Recruiters Being Reigned In

The Army Times is reporting that the Army National Guard (ARNG) has missed its monthly recruiting goal for the first time since 2005. The misstep, however, is not due to any failure on the part of Army Guard or its 359,288 members. It is the result of an Army directive ordering the ARNG to slow its recruiting so it does not exceed manpower levels authorized by law. Though the Army had no other choice than to pull in the ARNG’s reigns, it is folly not to take full advantage of the Army Guard’s superior recruiting capabilities. Congress and the administration should acknowledge that recruits are supporting the Army Guard in larger numbers than the active Army and act accordingly to increase the size of the ARNG.

The current success of Army Guard recruiting began with the implementation of the “recruiting assistant” program in late 2005. The program targets potential Soldiers, who might not listen to a traditional recruiter (a stranger) but look up to the heroes of their own communities returning from overseas: their co-workers, former and current teachers, firemen, and even parents. The program trains “assistant recruiters” from among Guard forces who are encouraged to talk to potential recruits. If an “assistant recruiter” gets a young person to go to boot camp, the program pays the Guard member $2,000. The program has been a major factor in the recruitment of 44,466 new members by the ARNG so far this fiscal year compared to 42,280 recruits by the Active Army during the same period.

Congress and the administration would do well to recognize that the cost-effectiveness, flexibility, and superior recruiting ability of reserve component forces (whether they be Army Guard, Army Reserve, Air Guard, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, or Naval Reserve) will play an even larger roll in our national defense in the coming years. The devastating budget impact of the skyrocketing cost of Medicare, Social Security, Medicaid, and the service on the national debt will shrink the discretionary spending capability of the federal government to the point that the US will no longer be able to maintain the current level of full-time forces to defend the nation and still invest in new weapon systems. When that time comes, that which has been the US historical norm for two-thirds of our nation’s history – the citizen warrior – will again become the rule.

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