Monday, August 27, 2007

Bribing the Warriors to Serve...Blood Money?

Nearly all US Army recruits since late July have signed up for a special 20,000-dollar bonus for a quick departure, an official said Monday, amid concerns the Pentagon is eroding combat standards with such incentives.

Out of 6,611 people who enlisted in the Army between the program's start on July 25 and August 24, a total of 6,264 or 94.8 percent are receiving the hefty bonus, in return for agreeing to start basic training within 30 days.

"Practically everyone who's enlisting now is eligible for this 'quick-ship bonus' if they're willing to ship by the end of September," said Douglas Smith, spokesman for the US Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

The 20,000-dollar bonus, which amounts to more than a year's salary for most young Army recruits, is due to expire at the end of the US fiscal year on September 30.

Following two straight months of enlistment shortfalls, the program helped the US Army exceed its July recruiting goal of 9,750 by about two percent, according to Pentagon statistics.

The rising US death toll in Iraq, and public disquiet about the war, has been blamed for deterring would-be recruits. The Army has already loosened enlistment standards in a bid to shore up its recruitment targets.

The Washington Post, which highlighted the program's success in a report Monday, noted concern that the latest bonus scheme could be attracting recruits more interested in the money than in service to their country.

"To me it signals something that we've been seeing already from the Army, a trade-off in terms of quality and quantity," Cindy Williams, a security analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the newspaper.

"My sense is that right now, they're willing to take anybody who is willing to walk in the door and ship by September 30."

Smith dismissed such concerns.

"Cash enlistment and educational incentives have been part of the recruitment process ever since we switched to an all-volunteer force in 1973," the recruiting spokesman told AFP.

"There's usually an array of reasons for enlisting in the Army. Financial incentives are just one, as are a sense of duty to the country along with personal and educational reasons."


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