Potential Recruits List Critical to 'All-Recruited' Force
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 24, 2005 The term "all-volunteer force" is a misnomer, a senior Defense Department personnel official said here June 23.
In truth, the U.S. military is an "all-recruited force," and its success depends on recruiters having access to potential recruits, David S. C. Chu, undersecretary for personnel and readiness, told reporters in the Pentagon.
Chu's comments came in response to a June 23 Washington Post article that claimed a new DoD contract for a database of potential recruits "is provoking a furor among privacy advocates."
However, Chu said, the new contract, with BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., is just that -- a new contract, not a new practice. The military services have kept various lists of potential recruits for many years, he said. In the past decade, the Defense Department has put more emphasis on "a more organized supervision" of the lists, and since 2003 has gone to a centralized list of some 12 million names that is distributed to recruiters from all services. The list is of recruitment-eligible young people between 16 and 25 years old.
The new contract is for a system to provide a centralized agency to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service, according to the notice in the Federal Register.
Chu explained that the government provides the contractor various lists of individuals, and the contractor is responsible for consolidating the lists into a master list and to purge duplicate entries.
Chu stressed that DoD understands privacy concerns and allows only limited use of collected data. "We don't give these lists out to other people," he said. "(The data) is given only to the military recruiters."
Data that's available to recruiters includes individuals' name, address and phone number. Social security numbers are used only to purge duplicate entries and not distributed or even maintained in the list, Chu said.
Chu also stressed that this centralized list of potential recruits has no relation to provisions in the federal No Child Left Behind Act that state schools must make student data available to military recruiters to be eligible for federal education funds. Parents can choose not to have their children's information released to recruiters.
The No Child Left Behind Act provides for individual schools to provide information to local recruiters, not to a centralized list of all potential recruits.
"No Child Left Behind is basically a local and decentralized operation which gives recruiters at your local recruiting station the same right that private companies have," Chu said, adding that high schools routinely provide the same type of information to companies that sell yearbooks and class rings.
To sustain recruiting efforts, recruiters need access to a source for names of potential recruits. "I suspect some in the public think people simply walk in the door and sign up," he said. "That's not how it works. People have to be made aware that we're interested in them, that they are good candidates for military service. And we have to convey to them what the attributes of military service entail."
Maintaining lists of potential recruits is critical to the success of an armed force that doesn't rely on conscription. "Contacting young Americans, making them aware of their option in the service, is critical to the success of the volunteer force," Chu said.
"The country does not want conscription. If we don't want conscription, you have to give the Department of Defense, the military services, an avenue to contact young people to tell them what is being offered," Chu said. "And you would be naïve to believe in any enterprise that you're going to do well just by waiting for people to call you."