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Military standards: how low can we go?

Nearly one in five U.S. Army recruits was issued some type of waiver in order to serve, including many with felony convictions and arrest. All while law-abiding gays and lesbians are not permitted in the military. (Chicago Trib):

More than 11 percent of the Army recruits needed waivers for problems with the law — up from 7.9 percent the previous year and more than double the percentage in 2003, the year the U.S. invaded Iraq. Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commander of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, stressed that a vast majority, about 87 percent, of those allowed in with waivers had misdemeanors for such offenses as joy riding or violating curfew. Most faced little punishment beyond community service for their actions, Bostick said.

But at the same time, the number of enlistees with felony convictions and arrests in their pasts has increased. In 2003, the Army allowed 459 enlistees with felony arrests and convictions into the service compared to 1,620 this past year. The startling figures come at a time when the Army is trying to grow amid persistent questions about how the armed forces can increase force size during a time of war without significantly lowering the quality of recruits.

No high school diploma? No problem.

Additionally, the Army, which carries a vast majority of the weight in the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, saw the percentage of new recruits with high school diplomas slip for the fourth straight year to below 80 percent, well below the Defense Department's goal of 90 percent.

More than 94 percent of Army enlistees in 2003 had earned a diploma, according to U.S. Army Recruiting Command statistics.

…Beth Asch, a senior economist and expert on military recruitment and retention at the Rand Corp., said that the decline in the number of enlistees with high school diplomas is more disconcerting than the increase in the number of character waivers granted by the Army.

“One reason you don't bring in non-grads is they tend not to complete things,” Asch said. “People who are better educated tend to be learners and the military needs life-long learners.”

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note asks an interesting question. While the Pentagon has issued more than 125K moral waivers to boost its recruiting numbers and keeps those pesky homos out, we have a whole bunch of Blackwater guns for hire out there. What kind of standards does it have for its employees?

I don’t know the answers but it would be interesting to know if Blackwater has issued any moral waivers to its recruits — or whether it has any moral benchmarks at all. Someone really ought to ask.

Also, does Blackwater have a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy? Or does it allow homosexuals into its private combat operations (as opposed to the gay folks at headquarters doing the planning and pushing paper)? Or does it discriminate against any homosexuals joining its ranks?

Would be interesting to know.

After all, we’ve recently learned that Blackwater, already in a heap of trouble for its role in an incident on September 16 when 11 Iraqis were killed in a shoot-out involving Blackwater guards, has dismissed 122 people over the past three years for all sorts of problems — misusing weapons, alcohol/drug violations, violent behavior, etc. The North Carolina-based firm has been paid over $800 million dollars by the State Department to perform security work.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding