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Beaver County Times Allegheny Times June 19, 2005

Military recruitment could suffer collateral damage, experts warn

By Patrick O'Shea

MOON TWP. - Western Pennsylvania historically has been a strong recruitment area for the military, but experts are worried that could change as more and more bases are closed or downsized by the Pentagon.

John Pike, director of GlobalSecurity.org, a defense analysis firm in Alexandria, Va., said it is hard to say what might happen to recruitment if the military continues to eliminate bases in the Northeast.

If you continue to bisect the nation into the so-called red states with military bases and the so-called blue states without much military presence, that is not good, Pike said.

"People in the blue states would grow up in a world where being in the military is abnormal," he said.

His concern is this would further polarize the country into red states that see the military as a way to get free government money and blue states that view military spending as a ripoff.

The trend could even possibly affect National Guard units, Pike said, because soldiers discharged from active duty often stay in the same area and sign up with Reserve or Guard installations nearby. With fewer active-duty bases in the Northeast, that could mean problems for Guard recruitment, he said.

"We are well on our way to a demilitarized Northeast," Pike said.

Charles "Chip" Holsworth, director of the Pittsburgh Base Realignment and Closure Task Force, said recruitment is a concern. His group is campaigning to save the 911th Air Force Reserve base in Moon Township, the Army's Charles E. Kelly Support Center in Collier Township and the Army Reserve's 99th Regional Readiness Command.

"This could have a tremendous negative impact on recruitment," said the retired Air Force colonel.

Holsworth said his group still is studying what effect the loss of the bases could have, but he said the Reserve Officers Association of Pennsylvania is worried about consolidation hurting recruitment, retention and retraining efforts.

According to the Defense Department, national recruitment was down in the active Army and all Reserve components except the Air Force Reserve in May, but officials said they hope the numbers will rise this summer with new high school graduates.

The Air Force Reserve surpassed its recruiting goal of 606 for the seventh-straight month in May, with 682 recruits. The other Reserve components met between 82 percent and 94 percent of their goals.

The Army had hoped to recruit 6,700 soldiers in May but missed by 1,661, reaching about 75 percent of its goal. This was the fourth-straight month the Army missed its recruiting goal.


Copyright 2005, Beaver County Times Allegheny Times