Having Trouble Getting Qualified Recruits? DON'T Expand Your Pool
By David Henderson
Representative Dave Brat (Republican, Virginia), writing in The Daily Signal, objects to members of Congress who want to expand the pool of eligible recruits by accepting illegal aliens. His argument is not simply that they’re illegal. Whether you think that argument is good will depend, on part, on what you think of letting people get away with breaking the immigration law(s).
What does not make sense, though, is one of his economic arguments. And that’s surprising, given that Congressman Brat is not just a random Congressman: he was recently an economics professor.
He makes two economic arguments. The first is that allowing illegal immigrants doesn’t make sense when Congress is the midst of getting rid of soldiers. Brat writes:
The recruitment is being encouraged at the very same time the Pentagon is laying off tens of thousands of American troops. According to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno, the active Army will be cut by more than 80,000 uniformed personnel by the end of fiscal year 2017.
My guess is that this is like comparing apples and oranges–that it could make sense to cut uniformed personnel in various categories even while expanding the number of recruits. But I don’t know. I’ve see the military do crazy things. Brat may have a point.
But what are we to make of his other argument? He writes:
Moreover, competition for enlistment is already so challenging that American high school graduates now face “more difficulty qualifying for the armed services than ever in the 40-year history of the all-volunteer force,” according to media reports.
I tracked down the original article in which the quoted passage in his article appeared. It’s worth reading. Here’s a relevant passage:
The Army nationwide is on pace to hit its fiscal year 2014 goal of signing up 57,000 recruits for active duty.
That’s down from about 80,000 new recruits each year from fiscal 2005 through 2008. Only once, in 2005, did Army recruiters fail to hit their mark.
In those years, much of their recruiting success was owed to commanders granting waivers for conduct and health issues that in peacetime would keep candidates out of the military. Only 86 percent of new recruits at the height of the Iraq War had completed high school. Many with felony convictions were allowed in.
Today, 99 percent of recruits have graduated from high school. The military branches expect higher scores in the ASVAB test, which quizzes candidates on tools and electrical circuitry as well as on language and math. Even a past misdemeanor may disqualify a potential recruit.
In other words, the U.S. military, which was not picky at or near the height of the Afghan and Iraq wars, is now being pickier. To help them be picky, they are expanding the pool of potential recruits to include illegal immigrants.
Here’s another quote from that same piece, one that quotes a retired Army lieutenant colonel:
“It’s very expensive to recruit,” he [the recruiter] added. “We don’t have the flexibility we once had to get it wrong with one kid and hope the next one works out.”
Again, if Congressman Brat’s complaint is simply that they’re illegal, well, there’s not much I could do to convince him. But that’s not his only complaint. He seems to want the military to hire less-qualified Americans over more-qualified foreigners.
Of course, Brat could argue that illegal immigrants are also felons. I would bet, although I don’t know, that the felons that the U.S. military hired in about 2005 committed more crimes more serious than working in the United States illegally.
But that’s not his argument. His narrowly economic argument doesn’t make sense. It amounts to saying that a military that wants to picky in whom it hires should hire from a smaller pool.