University of Pittsburgh
February 13, 2008

Nation's Military is in Trouble, Says Pitt Faculty Expert Donald Goldstein

The army's recruitment standards are at lowest levels in at least two decades, according to Defense Department statistics
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PITTSBURGH-Leading World War II authority Donald Goldstein, a professor in the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, is worried about the state of our military-and for good reason. The army's recruitment standards are at a two-decade low, according to statistics compiled by the Defense Department and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by the Boston-based research organization National Priorities Project.

Goldstein says the abundance of conscripts during WWII and the Vietnam War allowed for a more diverse and larger army, but those days are long over. "Because the volunteer force is limited, the same people are serving three or four tours," says Goldstein. "The volunteers are doing the best they can, but they are overworked and underpaid. It is a growing problem. The military is forced to take people everyday that it would not have years ago."

Goldstein explains that the army is suffering from ops tempo, or too many commitments, and many of the army leaders will not admit it.

"Morale is much lower than they are willing to admit," he says.

Department of Defense statistics reveal that the percentage of new army recruits with high-school diplomas has plunged from 94 percent in 2003 to 83.5 percent in 2005 to 70.7 percent in 2007. The Department of Defense's current goal is 90 percent. Also, many conscripts do not get through the first year, says Goldstein. High-school dropouts are more likely to drop out of the military than their peers with high school diplomas, according to the Department of Defense. With that said, taking in more high school dropouts may not be the best strategy for boosting long term recruitment numbers.

Other factors lead to the lowering of recruitment standards, such as the army's standing commitments in NATO, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, plus other related state duties, says Goldstein.

"They cannot hack it," he says.

Also, Goldstein says that the National Guard and Reserves are supposed to be for emergency and home use, rather than being constantly deployed, and the constant deployment may be hurting recruiting efforts. "If they wanted to be regulars, they would have signed up for the army," he says.

Goldstein is a military scholar and a renowned expert on Pearl Harbor. He is the author or coauthor of 25 books, including two best-sellers, "At Dawn We Slept: The Untold Story of Pearl Harbor" (McGraw-Hill, 1981) and "Miracle at Midway" (McGraw-Hill, 1983).

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