Many studies have been conducted
on the perceptions of the U.S. military. It is apparent that this
research has been accomplished in hopes of discovering a solution to the
drastic decline in recruiting. It has been said that recruiting and retention
has been a problem within the military since the draw down of the “Cold
War” (Collins, 1998). This year the Army will need 74,500 new soldiers;
the Navy will need 53,234; the Air Force 33,800; and the Marines 35,000
(Galloway, Strobel, & Tharp, 1999).
In 1997, the Army increased bonuses and lowered expectations
to achieve their recruiting goals (Collins, 1998). This year the Army will
miss its goal by 6,000 to 10,000 recruits (Moniz, 1999). Recruiting
shortfalls are felt in officer
commissioning programs through the termination of programs.
College Reserve Officer Training Programs (ROTC), one of four ways of receiving
a commission as an officer, have dropped almost two-thirds of their programs
across the nation (Moniz, 1995). If recruiting goals are not met, the services
may have to lower their entrance standards even further, an option feared
by senior officers who lived through the crime and drug ridden post-Vietnam
military (Moniz, 1999).
In 1998, the Navy’s shortfall
of recruits totaled 7,000 (Moniz, 1999). Army Secretary Louis Caldera suggested
hiring 2,000 high school dropouts who have GED certificates as a test program
in an attempt to reduce the Army’s recruiting woes. However, Congressmen
did not approve of this possible solution to reduce recruiting deficits.
Senator John McCain of Arizona and Representative Curt Weldon of Pennsylvania
consider the plan a mistake, mainly due to the advancements in technology,
but also because it sends the wrong message to young Americans that they
can, “quit school and the Army will pick you up” (Galloway, Strobel, &
Tharp, 1999, p. 14). To help combat the possibility of recruiting high
school dropouts, the services are paying millions of dollars in advertising
campaigns and beefing up its recruiting offices. The Air Force is buying
$17 million worth of television ads this year and $37 million for the year
2000. All services are adding recruiters and in the Navy’s case, more than
1,000 recruiters have been assigned to man 200 reopened stations (Galloway,
Strobel, & Tharp, 1999).
Collins (1998) talks about how the military is faced
with dangerous decisions. America is faced with a military that may
evolve too far and become “civilianized” and less ready for combat. Since
1989, we have reduced our active all-volunteer forces by 700,000 people,
about one-third of the active force… In terms of combat structure, the
Navy went from 566 ships to 354, a reduction of 38%…The Air Force went
from 36 to 20 fighter wings, a reduction of 45%…These facts all support
one conclusion: the force structure today is being worked to its capacity,
especially when we consider the requirements for training that precede
or come after lengthy operations or engagement activities (Shalikashvili,
Collins (1998) talks about a military which is so isolated
that the service members lose the values of society. Moniz (1995) claims
that the American public is not interested in the military. Many Americans
question the reasoning behind the numerous deployments and wonder what
vital interests the United States has in these deployments (Moniz, 1995).
With the Bush administration’s change of focusing from
“deter and fight” to one of shaping the environment to prevent wars, the
U.S has seen more than 40 military operations from 1993-1997 (Collins,
1998). This is a pace of three to four times that of the Cold War (Collins,
1998). The average soldier spends 140-180 days a year deployed from home
and in 1996 American soldiers served in 100 countries, the largest number
in history (Gergen, 1997).
With this significant increase in operational tempo,
a force reduction of 36% was introduced and passed in 1994 (Collins, 1998).
Collins (1998) continues to talk about the “all-volunteer, mostly family-oriented
force - whose
pay never seems able to keep up with civilian wage scales
- is feeling pressure from a civilian-military value gap” (p. 215-216).
Growing concern for the services
perception of what the public considers fundamental values has prompted
a reshuffling of what the military holds as its beliefs. The Army’s core
values are “Duty, Honor, Country” (Collins, 1998, p. 217). The Navy’s
has been “Honor, Courage, and Commitment” (Collins, 1998, p. 217).
A study conducted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies
lists new values for the 21st Century military. The list, which includes
“self-sacrifice, discipline, obedience to legitimate authority, physical
and moral courage, a merit-based rewards system, loyalty to and respect
for comrades, unit and nation” (Collins, 1998, p. 217) shows that the military
is trying to limit the cultural gap. This is very difficult to accomplish
when 76% of American men between 70 and 74 are veterans, but less than
10% of men younger than age 30 have ever served (Moniz, 1995).
Although Collins (1998) talks about how the military
is attempting to narrow a gap with U.S. society, he addressed the issue
that the American military
is “overworked, underpaid, and over there” (p. 219).
Collins (1998) continues to say that for many Americans, our military responses
to international issues have been unsettling and unethical. The new focus
on peace operations rather than combat operations has surfaced clashing
values within Americans. This idea of “what
are we all about” (Collins, 1998, p. 220) along with a booming economy,
has dampened recruiting and retention. Due to many pension and health care
cuts, retired military families may no longer openly
endorse a career in the service (Moniz, 1999).
Every day, more and more service members leave the military.
Some because they feel there are better opportunities outside the military
and some because they are disillusioned with the service. Moniz (1999)
thinks young adults have been conditioned to expect to have five or six
jobs in their lifetime, not one or two. In recent decades, the armed forces
have consciously promoted enlistment as a way to invest in training relevant
for later life (Barley, 1998).
Collins (1998) states that an Army-wide survey showed
that 50% of the respondents felt that their noncommissioned officers would
lead well in combat and only 40% thought their officers would do the same.
Much of these ideas can be attributed to the reduction of expectations,
which can be attributed to recruiting and retention issues (Collins, 1998).
Senior leadership in the Pentagon cite two factors to explain why young
people are far less inclined to join the armed forces than they were five
years ago: the services have slashed recruiting
budgets, and many civilians believe the shrinking military
is not hiring (Moniz, 1995). Since 1989, the percentage of males aged 16-21
who reported they were likely to join the Army dropped 35% and black males
of the same age group fell 42% (Moniz, 1995).
Researchers claim that the 1960’s anti-war generation
is the cause for much of the mistrust and dislike for the armed forces
(Moniz, 1995). Parents and
teachers today grew up in the 60’s and are leery of the
military (Moniz, 1995). Additionally, high school students do not have
the desire to serve in the armed services because they, “don’t like to
be bossed around” (Moniz, 1999). “The resistance to leadership exhibited
by this generation that was never spanked undermines discipline and the
rank-authority system” (RAND Corporation, 1997).
“Communication is an important part of life in
organizations” (Byers, 1997, p. viii). Organizational communication
theories look at many aspects to assist the organizations in becoming more
successful. This idea of organizational communication looks at areas
such as culture, leadership, and conflict within these groups and how communication
helps to make them stronger (Byers, 1997).
Byers (1997) describes an organizational culture
having seven elements; metaphors, rituals, stories, heroes, cultural artifacts,
performances, and values. These seven elements are all present in
the military, therefore one can say it
contains an organizational culture. The functionalist
perspective to a strong culture is characterized by organization-wide consensus,
consistency, and clarity of ideas where all share the same values, understanding,
and productivity (Byers, 1997). This idea also
states a need to provide members with the knowledge of who they are and
what they are doing (Byers, 1997). The
need for this strong cultural idea is justified because
members of organizations with strong cultures usually do not work solely
for economical reasons. Their loyalties stem from a deeper personal
significance which can be attributed to the culture of the organization
(Byers, 1997). One good example of this idea within the military
could be the statement, “Once a Marine, always a Marine,” an idea used
by the Corps to ensure a strong culture within their organization.
According to Byers (1997), a review of recent literature
shows that effective leadership is key in organizational performance.
Byers (1997) also talks about a review that was done by Day and Lord (1988)
where they found a 20-45% difference in success and failure which was correlated
to effective leadership within an organization. How a leader perceives
a problem will usually determine the solution chosen to alleviate the problem
(Byers, 1997). Because it is stated (Reis, 1994) that perceptions change
within distinct groups, it is important that leaders connect to their workers
in order to understand the reality of the problem. Byers (1997, p. 134)
states, "it doesn't really matter which theory of leadership effectiveness
you adopt," the important factor being the
development of an adequate communication skill, so that
the leader can relate and understand the subordinate.
also looks at conflict within an organization. According to Pondy
(1967), there are four different types of definitions for conflict.
The first is antecedent conditions (scarce resources). Affective
and anxiety), cognitive states (awareness of conflict),
and conflictful behavior (resistance to overt aggression) are the other
three categories within Pondy’s (1967) definition. From these definitions
one can see the conflict within the military by the lack of resources and
lack of trust in leaders and military from the literary reviews mentioned
According to Byers (1997), Lesikar (1976) states that
people perceive different realities and give these realities different
meanings. If this is true, then it could be said that there is a
need to find out what the current perceptions of the military are in order
to begin to address the problem of recruiting and retention. Older officers
complain that the new generation is more motivated than their predecessors
by the financial incentives of the all-volunteer Army. Retired Admiral
Stan Arthur, who commanded Naval forces during the Persian Gulf War, said
that the need for the services to offer college funds to entice recruits
was “unionizing the services” (Thompson, 1997).
Lesikar’s (1976) statement could explain the need to
develop distinct surveys to measure the ideas from different types of people.
Three groups were
chosen for this project; potential recruits (18-24 year
olds), general public, and senior leadership within the military.
The idea of studying these three specific
groups accomplishes two distinct goals. Studying
the perceptions of the recruit age general public and general public will
help in understanding what the focus needs to be in a public affairs campaign
in order to help recruiting.
Studying the perceptions of senior military leaders will
help determine if those leaders are in tune with society. These decision-makers
determine what methods are used to attract young recruits. This project
will aid in measuring these perceptions so researchers may understand the
problem more clearly and begin to find a solution to a stronger military.