Warships: Navy and Marines Take the Lead, Part Three

27.12.07

Categorie: Inter-Service Rivalry, Naval |

With ever-increasing commitments across the globe, a plan to boost the fleet by more than 10 percent and growing prominence inside the Pentagon, the U.S. Navy is arguably more strategically relevant today than at any time since the end of the Cold War. In addition to playing a vital fire-support and logistics function in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Navy has steadily – and quietly – reinforced its Pacific fleet in order to remain a stabilizing influence amid rapidly expanding Asian navies and increasing tension over dwindling natural resources. But waning interest from American youth threatens to undermine the force in coming years. The Navy’s strategic importance is growing, but its place in society and popular culture is shrinking by the day.

Recruiting figures belie this trend. The Navy’s met its 2007 goal of 33,500 new sailors and the Navy Reserve was just 2-percent shy of its 9,700, thanks in part to enlistment bonuses in many job fields. The problem is not today’s 17-19 years olds, according to a presentation from the recent Annual Navy Workforce Research and Analysis Conference that was leaked to the press. The problem is with the teenagers that represent the next generation of Navy recruits.

The conference presentation predicts that the percentage of the country’s roughly 40 million youth with a “propensity to join the military” is charting a steady decline, from 17 percent in 2001, to just 8 percent today and a projected 3 percent in 2015.

The conference presentation, which is based on media research, census and labor data and several military studies, predicts that the percentage of the country’s roughly 40 million youth with a “propensity to join the military” is charting a steady decline, from 17 percent in 2001, to just 8 percent today and a projected 3 percent in 2015. The presentation mostly blames the teens themselves, whom it describes as “narcissistic praise junkies,” who have been coddled by over-protective parents and spoiled by unprecedented comfort and material wealth – and whose only aspiration after high school is to go to college, party for four or five years then get a high-paying job. “[If I join the Navy] I’d miss out on having the excuse of being a college kid and being irresponsible,” one teen is quoted as having said.

“The military,” the presentation laments, is “not even on kids’ radar.”

The Iraq war is partly to blame, the presentation admits. A graph under the header, “Impact of Iraq War,” shows that between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of teens describing themselves as “less likely to join the military” jumped from 26 to 52.

The conference presentation, which is based on media research, census and labor data and several military studies, predicts that the percentage of the country’s roughly 40 million youth with a “propensity to join the military” is charting a steady decline, from 17 percent in 2001, to just 8 percent today and a projected 3 percent in 2015. The presentation mostly blames the teens themselves, whom it describes as “narcissistic praise junkies,” who have been coddled by over-protective parents and spoiled by unprecedented comfort and material wealth – and whose only aspiration after high school is to go to college, party for four or five years then get a high-paying job. “[If I join the Navy] I’d miss out on having the excuse of being a college kid and being irresponsible,” one teen is quoted as having said.“The military,” the presentation laments, is “not even on kids’ radar.”The Iraq war is partly to blame, the presentation admits. A graph under the header, “Impact of Iraq War,” shows that between 2003 and 2007, the percentage of teens describing themselves as “less likely to join the military” jumped from 26 to 52.

The Navy’s participation in the Iraq war has been mostly invisible to lay observers. The massive logistics effort revolves around lumbering sealift ships that are mostly indistinguishable from their commercial counterparts. The warships quietly patrolling the Persian Gulf have fired barely a shot since 2003. Navy Seabees and bomb squads, which have seen heavy combat, unfortunately dress in the same tan camouflage uniforms once worn by the Army and Marines (and still worn by the Air Force) and so appear, to the average American, to belong to those services. Airpower is the most obvious naval function playing an important role in Iraq, but carrier-based squadrons have never received the kind of attention from “embedded” journalists that ground-based forces have enjoyed – perhaps due to their inaccessibility.

Ironically, the Navy’s apparent non-participation in Iraq isn’t protecting it from the damaging effects of the war’s unpopularity, if the conference presentation is to be believed. At the same time, the lack of a highly visible Navy role – regardless of public perceptions of the war’s righteousness – still erodes the service’s standing in society, and thus hurts its future recruiting efforts.

Related:
Part two
Part one
Companies fight over killer drone
V-22 still controversial
Catamarans = mini sea bases
Pundit broadsides
Return of the battleship
LCS sinking
Ships are too expensive 
Big-ass missile-killing missile needs big-ass boat
Navy needs medium choppers
Small carriers for everyone

First published in Warships International Fleet Review Magazine.

|

3 Responses to “Warships: Navy and Marines Take the Lead, Part Three”

  1. Don S says:

    “The Iraq war is partly to blame, the presentation admits.”
    Duh. My daughter joined the USMC in 2004. Four years later, we’re still mired in this stupid war, incompetents are being promoted because of the lack of retention, and morale is at rock bottom due to extensions of service.
    Sitting in Kuwait, waiting to return to the US, she met some army regulars who had just been detoured from their way HOME from Afghanistan. Tours extended into Iraq. Families at home expecting them, disappointed. You can’t fight a war this way, with inadequate resources and insufficient manpower, and expect there to be no effect on enlistment and retention.
    Would she re-up for another four years? “Not if they offered me a million dollars.” And she is a trained Arab linguist, so there goes another one.

    Of course teens aren’t enlisting.

  2. ELP says:

    Excellent read.

    Also figure, Afghanistan and Iraq have no ability to invade the U.S. Wheres the need to join? Of course with BRAC over the years, more and more communities don’t have a military base near them=less of the population has contact with the military to even have a clue what it is….

  3. [...] Related: Part three Part two Part one Companies fight over killer drone V-22 still controversial Catamarans = mini sea bases Pundit broadsides Return of the battleship LCS sinking Ships are too expensive  Big-ass missile-killing missile needs big-ass boat Navy needs medium choppers Small carriers for everyone [...]

Leave a Reply