01 March 2008

A Call to Service. Part II of II

For part I of II click Twenty or so apprehensive yet excited young adults sit facing forward, giving their rapt attention to the individual giving a powerpoint presentation at the head of the room. (It is a quick fun read.)

As I discussed previously, the Military is by and large an option with little competition. Individuals with few marketable skills beyond a high school diploma are able to land a job, learn a craft, travel, receive a large bonus, and obtain money for college. It is time that a non-military option is introduced, perhaps akin to the peace corps, that this adventuresome demographic can join.

There is a huge caveat though, which is that market forces not playing favorably. Many countries rely on conscription to fill military ranks, as there are simply not enough people vying to "get in". The US all volunteer force is accomplished through excessive recruiting and particularly good wages and benefits. Can't get enough trash collectors then raise the wage. A bit of supply and demand. So unfortunately there are not thousands of unfilled jobs out there, with the exception of ones in the Army. Therefore, there is no easy way to match military salaries in another job. The small stipend from the Peace Corps and Ameri Corps is case in point.

A starting point to a civilian analogue to the military would be a more holistic approach to US national security. The new model would price not only military intervention but also the effects of diplomacy, aid giving, developmental assistance and more. The War in Iraq would make for good study material. Approximately one trillion dollars have been spent there. What would be the effects of those dollars had they been spent through non-military channels? This is a question that desperately needs to be answered. If a dollar spent on military intervention is just as affectively spent on developmental assistance, than suddenly working in the Peace Corp rivals the Air Force. Either way, the good free market tendencies in all of us should denounce the Department of Defense which has a monopoly on entry level jobs which pay well. Perhaps the Justice Department will become involved after Ron Paul files an anti-trust lawsuit.

The Civilian Corp
We have Kennedy's Peace Corp and Clinton's Americorp. How about an Obama or McCain Civilian Corp. The Civilian Corp would be overseas on seven continents and domestic in 56 states and territories. Various branches would exist much like the US Armed Forces.
Development Corp: This would roughly encompass the two existing corps. The college grads currently in the Peace/Ameri corps would act as officers and would manage a cadre of "enlisted" personnel.
Security Corp: Let's face it. There are people who want to tote a gun, get dirty, and work with cool machinery. Some of these individuals join the military because they specifically want, The Military. And others join because they want to tote a gun, get dirty...but don't necessarily want the military. This is that alternative. The security corp would train for a range of support missions emphasizing physical fitness, team work, and hardened bodies. The training itself would begin with a boot camp in which every member learned to fire a gun, become physically fit, and learn discipline, with the training being a significant if not unprecedented life challenge. Following completion of the boot camp various missions would be supported, such as the following:
1. Border Patrol. The US Customs and Border Protection is facing a shortage of Agents.
The Security Corp would be a ready reserve of individuals capable of shipping out there.
2. Wild Fire suppression. Every summer work crews battle western blazes.
3. Event policing. Big events require large security staffs. Bus them in.
4. The Coast Guard. Generally involved in humanitarian efforts rather than warfare. In fact one can already enlist with the same benefits as the Army. This begs the question, why isn't the Coast Guard inundated with applicants?
Engineer Corps:
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, voted the number one department to work for, requires engineers of all sorts. Like the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) in the Navy of "Engineer" the NRC too needs engineers. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration needs scientists. NASA needs support staff. Departments of Public Works across the country need capable people. Construction crews need plumbers, electricians, roofers, etc.

These Corps I suggest are merely some possibilities. I am sure you have better suggestions than I or take offense with one or more. Do not let part those parts become a Straw Man that allows this whole idea to be easily dismissed.

And to bring this whole discussion full circle, imagine the following... (read part I of II here to understand)

I am surrounded by the top quartile of individuals in need of a dermatologist. I ask one young impressionable male which branch he is joining. With excitement in his voice he states the Development Corp. I will be stationed in Bogota at the Embassy, where my father as a Marine corp served for four years. Rather than provide security, I will be interviewing peasants and collecting data on the cocaine activities, and will even have the opportunity to work with the DEA and hopefully be part of a drug bust! Once I complete my four years I will have money for college. And with my degree I hope to become a DEA Special Agent. Another man spoke of his decision choosing between the Army Airborne and Security Corps, finally settling on the latter. I have a contract to become a smoke jumper assuming my first two years go well. The Security Corps flies the same helicopters as the army, has some pretty awesome machinery and as an extra perk, I will even get to fight fires Down Under during the winter months! How's that for a tour of duty. Smoke Jumping in sight of Kangaroos!


Anonymous said...

I have not reaqd this yet but it is a topic ai wm interested in. Will return with thoughtful comments in the near future. Hope to hear other opinions.
Yeneerg Trebor

Anonymous said...

What inspiring, sensible and novel ideas. Keep up the writing and the thinking. Like a fresh breeze on a stifling, suffocating day. I wish I had something to add, but I am distracted thinking about how to move these ideas into the popular culture. In the meantime keep thinking, keep writing. Extraordinary potential in what you suggest.

I have recently been pondering the re-introduction of the draft. Mandatory service for all citizens, yes, all citizens, no exceptions. Six months? One year? Two years? A wide range of service options would be available. There would be some degree of choice, but the basic service would be mandatory. Think of the benefits. This is the kind of patriotism that “even a Quaker could support”. A service experience shared by all American, all Americans, all genders, all creeds, all economic statuses, all levels of education, all States of the Union, all political stripes, etc. An important, formative, seminal and bonding experience shared by all Americans in service of the common good, our shared heritage, or a set of ideals that we may not even agree on. An individual and national character building opportunity. Sorry I am getting carried away – keep growing your ideas. I wish the presidential candidates would read this blog.

Bob Greeney
Former Peace Corp Volunteer
Vietnam War Conscientious Objector
Community College Professor