Pentagon Official Refutes 'Time' Claim of 'Broken-Down Army'

A senior Pentagon official has refuted "Time" magazine's depiction of a "broken" Army. Accusing "Time" of using incendiary language and of hyping the facts, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Military Personnel Policy Bill Carr made his remarks in the course of his appearance yesterday on the TV show this NewsBuster hosts, and in subsequent written comments.

Sec. Carr was responding to claims made by "Time" in a story by Mark Thompson dated April 5, 2007 entitled America's Broken-Down Army, a headline Carr called "incendiary."

Sec. Carr offered the following refutation of a number of assertions contained in the "Time" article:
TIME: Recruits from the least-skilled category have climbed eightfold, to nearly 4%, over the past two years.

CARR: This refers to the percentage of recruits drawn from the bottom-third of math/verbal aptitude (we refer to them as "Category IV"). For the past 15 years, the Pentagon quality benchmarks have stipulated a ceiling of 4% for CAT IV and Army is within it. As recently as 1980, the Army was bringing in more than half (56%) from the bottom third and ten years later took that Army to war. A decrease from one-in-two, to one-in-twenty today, is hardly consistent with an explosive word like "broken" -- TIME is hyping the facts by hiding the historical context.

TIME: The Army has boosted the maximum enlistment age from 35 to 42 — but 12% of recruits over 35 drop out within six months, double the rate for younger soldiers.

CARR: From Desert Storm (1991) to today, the average six month attrition rate for Army (all ages; all sources) has been 15%. It is hard to view a figure like 12% as evidence of "broken."

TIME: To boost its numbers, the Army has had to cut its standards. It granted recruits nearly twice as many waivers for felonies and other personal shortcomings in 2006 as it did in 2003.

CARR: Felony waivers doubled from 411 to 901 between 2003-06 -- about one per congressional district, or one percent of total. Notably, this term refers to persons arrested for a felony; yet most were not adjudicated as felons (charges were reduced or dropped). But any arrest that did not culminate in "not guilty" is required to undergo a felony waiver in the military to ensure a general officer looks closely at the case. If the community support for the young person is strong (teachers, coaches, clergy) and a whole-person review portends success, a waiver is granted. Notably, those who survive this close scrutiny are more successful than the average recruit in completing their service obligations. Their communities were right to support them, and the system works.
Sec. Carr concluded by approvingly citing a statement in the "Time" article by General Peter Schoomaker, the Army chief of staff: "I know what an Army that's near broken smells like, what it looks like, how it acts: drug problems, race problems, insubordination — all kinds of things going on. We're nowhere near anything like that."

Remarked Sec. Carr: "The general is quite correct, and his recollections are more vivid than some of his contemporaries."

Contact Mark at mark@gunhill.net
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.