Peace Time: November 2, 2003

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A small, but growing, problem in recruiting for the United States military is the rising educational levels of the American population. It works like this. For the past half century years, the U.S. has increasingly recruited its officers from the college educated population. Currently, nearly 40 percent of eligible men and women are college grads. Enlisted personnel are recruited from those with at least a high school education. However, only about 75 percent of American kids make it through high school. This there is a slightly larger pool of people to recruit officers from than there is to recruit enlisted personnel. But there are about three times as many enlisted troops as there are officers in the armed forces. So far, this has resulted in growing problems in getting and retaining enlisted personnel for high tech jobs. In response to this, the military has turned over a lot of "techie" jobs to officers. This, in turn, causes problems because all officers are supposed to be leaders. But as the old saying goes, "make an engineer a manager and you lose a good engineer and get a lousy manager." Well, not always, but often enough to make that particular phrase an oft repeated one. Another problem is that some 20 percent of high school graduates are getting two year (Associate) college degrees. It's hard to recruit these people, as they don't particularly care for the lower status in the military (as enlisted troops) versus people with only two more years of college (officers). Currently, 2-5 percent of all enlisted personnel have two year degrees. This problem sort of solves itself for people who become career enlisted personnel. The longer you stay in, the higher your rank, and each rank provides additional increases in pay for those who have more years of service. Many senior NCOs obtain college degrees (with the government usually paying for it), but the purpose of them is to provide better employment opportunities when they take their military pension (half pay) after twenty years service. A growing percentage (nearly a quarter) of recruits are college graduates, or have some college. They are joining for the adventure or to obtain specific skills. Like the majority of new recruits, they are also there for the veterans educational benefits. After four years in uniform, there are generous tuition aid benefits for undergraduate or graduate school.

While current recruiting efforts are working, there were problems during the "internet bubble" of the late 1990s. There were so many technical jobs that the armed forces could not compete. When hiring of well educated, technically trained young people picks up, the military will find itself short of people once more. There are some in the military that are suggesting that the rank structure be changed, but there is much resistance from traditionalists. But the rank system will change in order to adapt, as it has over thousands of years.

 


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