NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

The Citizen-Soldier Track

April 16, 2003

The military has done a good job of turning itself into a major career choice for high-school graduates. But ever higher numbers of Americans are now going to college, and the typical college student plans on a civilian career.

Research by the respected military sociologist Charles Moskos shows that even increased financial incentives can't get college students to sign up; but shortening the four-year enlistment period can. With an 18-month enlistment, college students could serve while also staying on track for a good nonmilitary career, suggests Stanley Kurtz.

  • An example of the way in which such short-term recruits could serve includes the military police, substantial numbers of which could be trained quickly to serve under the direction of experienced peacekeepers.
  • With the ranks of the MPs filled by college kids, regular troops could get out of the business of nation-building and turn their attention to serious fighting.
  • A citizen-soldier track would also quiet complaints about the lack of shared sacrifice among the relatively affluent and college-educated.

It would be good for the army -- and for the country -- to have people from all walks of life in the armed services, says Kurtz.

Source: Stanley Kurtz, "It's Getting a Little Drafty," National Review, April 21, 2003.

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