Obama Administration Cuts Funds For Military Recruiting

Only four years after Barry McCaffrey pronounced that the “wheels would come off” Army recruiting by 2007….

Just two and half years after the point at which the improbably named Stirling Newberry (the burden of growing up with that hung about your neck would make anyone into a pretentious twit), predicted the Army would run out of “crack troops”

A mere two years after Max Boot and Michael O’Hanlon pushed the idea that the Army needed to pay foreigners to join it….

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration is cutting the Department of Defense’s recruiting budget by $800 million, or 11%, and the budget for enlistment and re-enlistment bonuses by $338 millon, or 26%.

To meet the cuts, the White House said, the military services would have to cap recruiting and retention programs at 2009 levels, lower enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, reduce the advertising budget, and cut the number of recruiters.

This reduction is brought about by the Army meeting or exceeding its recruiting and retention goals in the “recent months.” Though if the article was anywhere near truthful it would have said that the services have met or exceeded their goals for all but one year, 2005, in a time of war.

While no one who opposed Obama should be surprised at this, we all should take stock of what it means.

No Growth In Land Forces

The war in Iraq obviously has different lessons for different people but the one lesson everyone should be able to agree upon is that if the United States is going to fight wars on land it needs soldiers. Technology can enable us to make better use of said soldiers, and offer them more protection, and make them more efficient but in the final analysis battles are won by a 19 year-old infantryman convincing the other guy that it is really not in his own best interests to continue fighting.

The decision to reduce the recruiting budget spells the end to any hope of increasing the size of the armed forces in general, and the Army in particular, back to where they were about the time Bill Clinton declared us all part of the peace dividend and Les Aspin decided that we’d never need to fight more than one war at a time.

Not Serious About Afghanistan and Iraq

In short, if the Administration is actually serious about winning in Afghanistan and solidifying our win in Iraq – and I, for one, do not believe for a second that Obama really cares if we win or lose either – then it has just cast a vote in favor of longer and repetitive combat tours for the troops; something Obama and his minions criticized the previous Administration for allowing. You can’t increase the OPTEMPO in Afghanistan, confront the eventuality that the war may spill over into Pakistan, and preserve the gains we’ve made in Iraq without either more troops or more and longer combat tours. (Of course, the Administration has downsized its surge size by about 50% so the idea that Obama is just not serious about Afghanistan is hardly a novel insight.)

Not Serious About Military Effectiveness

Even if we stipulate that with an economy that is in the crapper, and shows every sign of being run deeper into said crapper by the current regime, that the military can meet manpower goals by relying on economic conscripts, cutting retention bonuses that encourage the best men and women to stay in uniform seems counterintuitive, to say the least.

The decision to tell mid-career noncommissioned officers that you will continue to serve repeated combat tours interspersed with short term deployments but we think you’re losers who can’t find a civilian job so we’re going to cut reenlistment bonuses seems particularly dunderheaded in the context of fighting two wars, one of which, could get much larger at a moment’s notice. If you’ve invested four plus years in a man or woman. recruiting them, training them and providing them with combat experience, it would seem to me that you’d like to keep that investment. But what do I know, I didn’t propose giving money to GM and Chrysler?

A Tin Ear For History

Another lesson we should have learned from the current wars is that it takes time to build a system to recruit men and women into the Armed Forces. It is all fine and well to cavalierly declare that an economic downturn has made it easier to recruit if your Defense policy is predicated on a never ending recession. (Though from what I’ve seen to date I’m not opposed to considering that might actually be the Administration’s plan.)

The problem with this strategy is that the economy, at least in the past, rebounds and your recruiting force is left without the tools, staffing, and experience to sell in a tough market. The infrastructure you downsized to save money is no longer present in many areas of America, cutting off contact between the military and young men or women who might be interested. A reduction in advertising dollars means that your message never reaches a lot of kids or their parents. And with the next crisis you are found wanting.


The fact that these cuts are being announced when every other fatuous program within the federal government is drowning in porkulus money is simply indicative of the contempt in which this Administration holds the military. The subtext here could not be clearer. If you are a career NCO you are a loser who simply can’t hack it on the outside. You’ll take what we give you and be grateful for it. If you want to enlist, forget about enlistment bonuses because you’re a loser who can’t get a job, etc.

This cut, entailing over a billion dollars, is an exercise in irresponsibility. It is a false economy that will cost money and lives downstream as experience is lost to the Armed Forces during time of war.