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March 2000

Recruiting Problems Escalate:
the latest on JROTC and recruitment fraud by Harold Jordan

child soldiers

JROTC Recruiting: What's the Connection?

The Junior ROTC program has long been touted by its proponents as a youth leadership and development program, not a recruiting tool, despite strong evidence to the contrary. Defense Secretary William Cohen has recently admitted to the central importance of JROTC to the military recruitment effort. In testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on February 9, 2000, Cohen referred to JROTC as "one of the best recruiting devices that we could have." Growing numbers of military advocates in Congress agree, and some are proposing a dramatic expansion of JROTC in the nation's schools in an attempt to boost sagging enlistment rates. The Pentagon is proposing to expand JROTC by another 700 high schools, in addition to the 2,700 that already have units, by the year 2005.

If JROTC were seen as a recruiting program it might be more closely scrutinized by educators, youth advocates and students.

According to Pentagon surveys, about 40% of high school seniors in the JROTC program report that they plan to join the military after high school. JROTC cadets who finish high school are much more likely by five times to sign up for the military right out of school than non-cadets.

Increasingly, JROTC is seen by military advocates as a cheaper and more productive recruiting tool than the regular recruitment and advertising programs. These relative cost estimates do not factor in local school districts' subsidies to the JROTC program, which constitutes perhaps the majority of the full cost of JROTC. Maj. Geoff Liddle, head of the Marine JROTC program at Crossland Public High School in Temple, Maryland, argues that JROTC "is more productive clearly because you've got a multi-year opportunity to influence [the students]."

Yet most JROTC officials have steadfastly maintained that the program is not a recruitment program. This claim is prominent in JROTC fact sheets, introductory packets and presentations given to local school officials. JROTC officials state that high enlistment rates by JROTC cadets are an unintentional spin-off of the program.

Why do JROTC officials try to distance the program from recruitment in the mind of the public? The answer is simple. If JROTC were seen as a recruiting program it might be more closely scrutinized by educators, youth advocates and students. Some people would see a program that is obviously designed as a sales effort in a different light than a school district-sponsored for-credit program. In addition, many teachers have heard complaints from students about the high pressure tactics and inappropriate behavior of recruiters.

A second problem is that JROTC would potentially run afoul of individual school or district-wide polities. In some areas recruiters (and sometimes representatives from other commercial ventures) are prohibited from gaining access to certain information about students, face time or place restrictions on their physical presence, or are banned from schools altogether because of the military's position as a discriminatory employer. Some state legislatures have placed restrictions on what districts can do to regulate recruitment activity; however district or school policy still prevails in other locations and under certain circumstances. A JROTC program that is too closely identified with recruiting could still potentially face enhanced restrictions and scrutiny.

Sources: Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor, 2/18/00; Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Disposition of Cadets reports; "Challenging Military Recruitment on Campus," On Watch, November 1995.

Recruitment Fraud Exposed in Five Month Investigative Report

WAGA-Atlanta features a synopsis of the report on their website.

On November 8 and 9, 1999, WAGA-Atlanta TV station aired a two-part investigative report on military recruiting in the Southeast US, entitled "GI Lies." The report concluded that military recruiters "intimidated, threatened, and even outright lied to them [young people] in an effort to bully them into enlisting." The report is based on a five month investigation of what happens to youth who sign up for the Delayed Enlistment Program (DEP) and then subsequently change their minds. Under current military enlistment policy a young person in DEP has a right to request separation from the program without prejudice (i.e., no dishonorable discharge, no punishment, no reserve duty). WAGA's investigative team traveled throughout the region interviewing young people, parents, recruiters and counselors.

The report quotes Former Lt. Carl Nyberg, who investigated recruiting abuses in Chicago. According to Nyberg: "The corruption is so thoroughly institutionalized in recruiting, it would take congressional hearings just to make a dent in cleaning things up."

About the Author

Harold Jordan coordinates the American Friends Service Committee's National Youth and Militarism Program. He can be reached at youthmil@afsc.org.

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