Friday, February 15, 2008

The Uncle Sam Home Equity Company

The United States Army has launched a new program to punch up its lagging efforts at getting new recruits, and it’s clearly a sign of something like desperation. Presented with the prospect of falling far short of its enlistment goals, the Army has announced it’s testing a pilot program, incentivizing would-be recruits with up to $40,000 down payment toward buying a home or starting a business after a five-year commitment.

The so-called Army Advantage Fund program is being test-marketed in Albany, N.Y., Seattle, Cleveland, San Antonio and Montgomery, Ala., for up to the next nine months, with possible wider rollout after that. “The Army Advantage Fund will ensure that the quality of life of our soldiers and their families equals the substantial quality of service that they give to the nation," said Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, in charge of the Army’s Accessions Command, in remarks reported Friday by the Associated Press from Albany.



While the Army hit its mark of 80,000 new recruits in the last fiscal year, officials have admitted they’ll be challenged to raise enrollment of active-duty Army, National Guard and Reserve personnel by 74,000 within the next four years, the AP reported.

"What we are hearing from our young people and influencers is that, although it is essential to them to establish home ownership and get started down their chosen career path, many times they question how they will be able to accomplish it," Freakley said in a press release posted on the U.S. Army Web site. "The Army recognizes these challenges, and wants to be a part of the solution by offering young adults the proper funds which will allow them to live their American Dream."


More problematic for those pursuing that American Dream this way is the prospect of participating in what’s been to now an American nightmare: fighting and/or dying in an increasingly unpopular, highly sectarian war. Add to that the unwelcome prospect of recruits waiting until their service is over before buying that home or starting that business — the Army’s unclear about when the money would be available. Who’s to say that much money or more couldn’t be saved by someone working in the private sector, in a lot less time?

It’s an open question whether this new initiative will work, but the Army’s efforts are a sad sign of the times, and a dubious way to get its own house in order.
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Image credits: Staff Sgt. Sean A. Foley, U.S. Army (public domain). Bottom: Derek Jensen, released to public domain

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