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Free college promises intensify military recruitment crisis

OpinionFree college promises intensify military recruitment crisis

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In our nation’s past, veterans who have honorably served were rewarded for their service with a variety of benefits, including free college under the GI Bills. Members of the military also were empowered to get their education while actively serving through other programs like military tuition assistance. 

However, calls today for free college have done more to harm the military than help it.

Moreover, given the nation’s historic recruiting crisis, promises of free college for all are only deepening one of the more powerful incentives for military service. Our military is increasingly becoming an afterthought to the next generation, stoking the fires of a burgeoning national security crisis. 

Marine recruiter

A student listens to a U.S. Marine recruiter during a presentation on campus at Rutgers University, Dec. 1, 2005, in New Brunswick, New Jersey. (Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images)

It is incumbent upon us to ensure that we not only fight radicalization throughout our nation, but also help secure America’s next generation of warfighters.

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Let us first look at the problem facing our nation’s military. Excluding the Marine Corps and the Space Force – the youngest branch of the service – every other branch embarrassingly missed their recruiting goals this past fiscal year. 

Policymakers continue to debate the true cause for the paradigm affecting the three largest branches of the military, with some blaming wokeism or the newfound emphasis on individualism. Regardless of the cause, there are policies being put forth outside the
military that have only exacerbated the problems plaguing the Department of Defense. 

This pattern is arguably the greatest national security threat facing our nation. So much so that conversations concerning conscription to meet manning objectives are resurfacing within the military.

Adding insult to injury, one of the major issues harming recruitment is the promise of free college for all from many of those same policymakers.

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Traditionally, a veteran of the service was rewarded with the Montgomery or the post 9/11 GI Bills, which honored an individual’s service with an all-expenses paid college education. You sacrificed for your nation and in return they would invest in your future. 

However, today it seems like the concept of sacrifice has faded into the background in favor of idealistic notions of “free” benefits. 

Look no further than individuals like Sen. Bernie Sanders, the self-described democratic socialist from Vermont, who has argued in favor of canceling out all student debt and making every single public institution of higher learning free. 

Beyond the economic ramifications of such an asinine policy, it is also furthering the recruiting crisis.

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Unfortunately, college itself is also becoming a less effective incentive. Only 25% of our nation’s youth can even meet the standards of military service and now the Pentagon is competing with universities and the private sector for the increasingly shrinking segment of eligible high school graduates. 

Moreover, many in Generation Z embody an entrepreneurial spirit and often find value in trades rather than the confines of academia. The antiquated benefits put forth by the Department of Defense have unfortunately been falling on deaf ears of young people who would prefer to start their own business rather than seek admittance to a radicalized and aloof institution of higher learning. 

It is no wonder that nearly 60% of GI Bill benefits go unused. Thankfully, there are steps we can take to fix this growing national security problem.

Rather than continue with the antiquated GI bill benefits structure, we ought to pass more bills like the one I helped write: the Veteran Entrepreneur Act. This bill teaches veterans the fundamentals of business management, including market research, organizational design and financial planning, thereby providing them with the essentials to begin their own businesses. 

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Moreover, these same funds can also be used to provide capital to help jumpstart their businesses. Instead of confining the most entrepreneurial generation inside the halls of woke institutions, why not provide them with the tools necessary to capitalize on their
industrial spirit?

In addition to providing a contemporary alternative to the GI Bill, we must also continue the fight against wokeism in our military. 

From drag queen recruiting materials to the embrace of individualism, it should come as no surprise that many young Americans are unaware of the true spirit of America’s armed forces.

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It is on us to remind our fellow Americans that military service is an honorable path filled with merit, camaraderie and sacrifice. There are some that still hold true to the values of our armed forces, like the U.S. Marine Corps, who successfully made their recruiting goals, but it is not enough.

Without change, we not only put our military at risk, but our nation as well. If we are to continue to be the leader of the free world, with the firepower to match, we must shift our current strategy to ensure we secure the safety of the next generation.

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