Abstract: Early Access at a Vulnerable Time (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

535P Early Access at a Vulnerable Time

Saturday, January 15, 2022
Marquis BR Salon 6, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Eric King, MSW, Student, University of South Carolina, Columbia
Purpose: This policy review examines the impact of increased access to high-school students on military recruiting outcomes and the impacts on students. Provisionally attached to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, The Military Recruiter Access Enhancement Act of 2000 increases access military recruiters have with high-school aged children. This policy states that military recruiters can request access to student directory information from public high-schools receiving federal funding from Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and does not have religious exemption. The Department of Defense (DoD) found during a 2005 study that the most vulnerable population to have the highest rates for alcohol abuse, anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorders are ages 17-24. Knowing this information, their recruitment efforts continue to be directed at the youngest, most vulnerable population. Using this early access to children to build relationships during mentally formative years created predatory grooming pipelines of enlisted members that would then help bring the recruiter to their friends. This was done with no regard for the outcome after enlistment, but for quota purposes.

Methods: The method for which this policy is reviewed is discourse analysis. First, I reviewed the policy itself by reviewing the published provisional law. Then, I reviewed the 2009 Congressional report that provided Congress assurance that this policy would be upheld by the Supreme Court if challenged due to being within their power to enact as law. Next, I reviewed unclassified documents from internal military correspondences reporting that recruiters didn’t need such laws. Lastly, I reviewed articles reporting on the difficulties of the age group 17-24 and the concurrent themes between predatory grooming and high-school recruiting.

Results: This policy was established to improve the military recruiter’s job; however, there is no evidence that was done. This policy is full of unintended consequences directed at high-school children. Trained military recruiters are being directed to engage minor children in tactics to entice them into enlisting via a binding contract to join the military. This is nothing like talking with a company for a job or a program director for a university. This policy attempts to stress fairness to military recruiters, but then provides trained, seasoned military members access to developing young minds and instructs them to win at all cost for their country. Winning in this case means getting an enlistment.

Conclusions: The inclusion of increased military recruiter access to school aged children in the form of this provision was passed with little regard towards unintended consequences. Even military recruiters questioned the decision to enact the provision stating that many branches were close to reaching recruiting goals and had built trust with many schools regarding access to their students’ information. This helps us understand that this provision wanted more and it has gotten just that, more access to high-school children than our Nation has ever known by military recruiters. We can’t have this both ways, better mental health for the age population 17-24 and earlier access for military recruiters if one is impacting the other.