For years, the U.S. military has had an increasingly more difficult time meeting its annual recruitment goals and there have been a number of reasons for that.
You might not think that’s possible in a country of some 320 million people, but thanks to negative cultural, dietary, societal, and political influences, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard have all had trouble attracting enough new recruits to fill the ranks.
As more youth are overweight, saddled with police records, testing positive for drugs, have body alterations such as tattoos or cannot pass basic entrance exams, the military overall has had to change — that is, reduce — standards in order to meet recruitment goals.
Not only that, but there are directives to expand the services’ numbers, especially the Army, as the service seeks to beef up its force in the face of rising threats around the world.
Now, however, the Pentagon is considering an even more radical change: Lowering the recruiting age to 16 years old, at least in some cases, which some believe the Democratic Party will use to its political advantage.
As the Washington Times reports, it isn’t as if the idea is unique to America. There are more than a dozen countries, including the United Kingdom, that have already lowered the enlistment age to 16:
Critics say the idea is deeply flawed and presents a host of societal problems, but supporters argue that the Pentagon needs to think outside the box if it wants to continually overcome one of the toughest recruiting environments in decades.
Neither the military nor lawmakers have given any indication that they are entertaining the idea, but some analysts say that opening the ranks to younger Americans could provide unique benefits and may be the kind of fundamental overhaul the recruiting system needs for the 21st century.
“For one,” Shane McCarthy, chief marketing officer of Sandboxx, a leading tech firm that connects members of the military abroad with their families and friends back home, “many of the factors that disqualify older youths from joining — like criminal records — are not present in younger teens.”
That’s true; but as someone who has spent 15 years in both the Army and Navy, suffice to say that the military culture is a very mature one — as it must be because our armed forces are charged with defending our country — and it’s way too much for the average 16-year-old mind to grasp and accept.
That’s why the military hasn’t lowered its recruitment age already and why even 17-year-olds often have to still get parental consent before they can enlist.
“Currently, of the 75% of 17- to 24-year-olds who are ineligible to serve, for example, 10% are ineligible due to criminal records,” McCarthy wrote in a recent article for the Military Times. “And, according to the Department of Justice, there are twice as many arrests of 18- to 20-year-olds as there are arrests of 15- to 17-year-olds.”
So — why not work on changing the culture? Or finding ways to issue waivers for older potential recruits who haven’t committed violent crimes?
Besides, given the current political environment, if the military would ever adopt a plan to enlist 16 year olds, who believes Democrats wouldn’t seize on that to push their initiative to allow 16-year-olds to vote, as they’ve already tried?
After all, if a young man or woman can serve, why can’t they vote (even though they can’t smoke, own or buy a firearm, or drink alcohol)?
For now, cooler heads appear to be winning this battle. Peter Warren Singer, a senior fellow at the Washington think tank New America and author of the book “Children at War,” warns that the very suggestion reflects a “misunderstanding [of] the different brain chemistry of youths and their ability to make informed judgment” which would destroy “the day-to-day lives of the poor drill instructors and commanders of these teens’ first unit,” the Times reported.