The New York Times covers a recent military enlistment boom, courtesy of the economy:
As the number of jobs across the nation dwindles, more Americans are joining the military, lured by a steady paycheck, benefits and training.
Recruiting offices are reporting a jump in the number of young men and women inquiring about joining the service in the past three months. The Army exceeded its targets each month for October, November and December — the first quarter of the new fiscal year — bringing in 21,443 new soldiers on active duty and in the reserves.
As a rule, when unemployment rates climb so do military enlistments. (One sergeant) said he had been struck by the number of unemployed construction workers and older potential recruits — people in their 30s and beyond — who had contacted him to explore the possibility. The Army age limit is 42, which was raised from 35 in 2006 to draw more applicants.
Another lure is the new G. I. Bill, which will significantly expand education benefits. Beginning this August, service members who spend at least three years on active duty can attend any public college at government expense or apply the payment toward tuition at a private university. No data exist yet, but there has traditionally been a strong link between increased education benefits and new enlistments.
It’s ironic that the military, source of major budget bloat, is finding qualified candidates just in time for a president who intends to withdraw from Iraq and, presumably, cut spending on international war efforts. Obama needs to cull military recruits into civilian service. They will do more good at home.