Saturday, January 12, 2008

Money, class & the all-volunteer U.S. military

At the recent AALS meeting in New York, an extended set of panels about gender and class included a session on "national security."
I joined several other speakers (including Diane Amann, who spoke about new interpretations of gender in international law scholarship and the need for feminist voices in that arena) in addressing the differential impact of national security law and policy across the socioeconomic spectrum.
My topic was the U.S. military, and my argument was that we have long overlooked the class dimensions of the all-volunteer force that has been in place since the end of the Vietnam War. While the popular rhetoric of military recruiting emphasizes patriotism and self-sacrifice as the primary motivations for enlistment, the reality is that money puts "boots on the ground." Financial incentives are the key tool of the volunteer army; consider RAND personnel expert Bernard Rostker's latest monograph on the topic, which clearly states that increased pay and benefits are the answer to recruiting shortfalls.
And shortfalls will continue, despite the Department of Defense's sophisticated marketing, so long as the personnel needs of ongoing conflicts create such tremendous demand for more troops. The army alone needs 13,000 new enlistees each month to meet its current recruiting goals, a tough number to reach even with "quick-ship" bonuses of $20,000 per soldier. The DoD should be especially concerned about the enlistment rates of African Americans, which have dropped faster than any other demographic group: In 2001, African Americans were 23% of active duty army recruits; in 2007, they were but 15%.

No comments: