Kagans, and Sen. John McCains of Washington, who are eagerrnfor America to take up the cause of “benevolent global hegemony”;rnbut at the end of “The American Century,” for Americansrnwho have grown weary of the White Man’s Burden, andrncertainly for America’s once and future adversaries, news ofrnAmerica’s shrinking —perhaps withering —standing armyrnmight be met with a smile. The American Armed Forces facerna readiness crisis that very soon will make them unfit for therntasks the Kristols, Kagans, and McCains have in store for them.rnTheir “imperial vision” will be an imperial hallucination.rnAreport from the U.S. Army’s Personnel Leaders’ Conferencernheld in March paints a worrisome picture. Lt. Gen.rnOhle, deputy chief of staff for personnel, states, “the numberrnone issue in the Army today is shortfall of personnel.” Shortfallrnhardly describes it. Today, the Army is short 92 colonels, 251rnlieutenant colonels, 408 majors, and more than 1,500 captains.rn(Note that there is no shortage of generals.) So severe is thernshortage of captains that the Army has announced that “98 percentrnof First Lieutenants will be promoted to captain after 42rnmonths of service.” (At one time, the system of military promotionsrnwas something of a meritocracy—the slogan was “up orrnout.” As one American politician has already observed, that sloganrnwill have to be changed to “up not out.”) The Army has alsornsent a letter to all captains who have recently resigned theirrncommissions, encouraging them to reconsider and promisingrn”increased [and] faster promotions to the grades of Major andrnLieutenant Colonel,” along with “schooling opportunities andrnmultiple paths to career success.”rnIn the Army’s enlisted ranks, the news is much the same.rnBased on a dramatic failure to recruit soldiers in the first quarterrnof fiscal year 1999, the Army is predicting an enlisted shortfall ofrn10,000 by the end of the year. For the Navy, that figure wasrn7,000 last year. The services have not faced so severe a personnelrncrisis since Vietnam.rnThe news is not good for the Air Force, either. A message,rndated February 1999, from Air Force Combat Command inrnLangley, Virginia, to Headquarters, United States Air Force,rnWashington, D.C., reports, “Air P’orce pilot retention continuesrnto decline. The separation rate increased 9 percent in FiscalrnYear 98 with”—this is alarming—”48 percent of eligible pilotsrnopting to leave the service. Total Fiscal Year 99 pilot losses arernexpected to approach 2000. Additional losses are expected fromrnpost-bonus pilots.”rn”Post-bonus” pilots have more than 15 years on active duty.rnThe Air Force has long thought that, because they are so closernto 20 years active dut’ (when they will be eligible for retirementrnat half pay and the full range of benefits), they no longer requirernincentives to keep them in the service. This unprecedented lossrnof post-bonus pilots raises at least two questions: Why are pilotsrnwho are so close to retirement getting out? And how shall werndescribe the readiness of the Air Force when it is losing so manyrnof its most experienced pilots? Less than half of Air Force fighterrnpilots now fit the description “experienced” (at least 500rnhours in the cockpit). Outside the fighter community, the situationrnis more grave: Only three in ten Air Force C-130 pilots, forrnexample, are “experienced.”rnThe Air Force is predicting a total pilot deficit of 2,330 by fiscalrnyear 2007. Where navigators are concerned, the picture isrndramatically worse: By 2001, 54 percent of the fighter navigatorrnforce will be retirement eligible.” The Februar)- 1999 AirrnForce message describes air battle manager (ABM) retention asrna “challenge”: ABM positions are manned at 72 percent, as arernAir Force weather forecasters. In the tactical aircraft maintenancernspecialties, the Air Force reports not only personnelrnshortages but also “serious skill level imbalances.” Air trafficrncontroller positions are currently manned at 69 percent; half ofrnthem leave the Air Force after their first term of enlistment isrnup. (I remember an extremely bright kid I ran into when I supervisedrnthe operations of the Enlistment Processing Station inrnMilwaukee. He had very high math scores, perfect scores onrnthe electronic aptitude test, and wanted in the worst way to bernan air traffic controller for the Air Force. He was sent packingrnwhen he admitted during his physical that he had had a bad reactionrnto a bee sting when he was 11 years old.)rnAmericans should bracernthemselves for a tremendousrnloss of life on the battlefield.rnThe significant personnel attrition in the non-pilot specialtiesrnin the Air Force gives the lie to the argument that the AirrnForce is losing all of its officers to the commercial aidines. But,rntake heart, benevolent global hegemonists: The senior AirrnForce brass assure us that “Ideas on ways to increase retentionrnare being explored.” Their latest idea, announced earlier thisrnsummer, is simply to forbid those personnel who are nearingrnthe end of their enlistment or are due to retire, but are servingrnin specialties essential to the bombing of Yugoslavia, to leavernthe Air Force.rnThe recruiting prospects for the Navy are perhaps the worstrnof all the Armed Forces. According to Newsweek, “A recentrnPentagon sur’ey found that only 9 percent of young men betweenrnthe ages of 16 and 21 were likely to consider joining thernNavy.” But the Navy seems to have clearer ideas about how tornsolve its personnel crisis than the Air Force. The Navy believesrnit can fill its 22,000 vacancies in the fleet by luring sailors to searnwith “more television sets on ship” and “shipboard e-mail.”rnThe Pentagon reaction—and the reaction from most Americanrnpundits and journalists—to these personnel shortages hasrnbeen to blame our so-called booming economy, which offers arnyoung man a better alternative than a military career. To believernthis, however, one must assume that soldiers join up forrnthe pay. There is little evidence for this. In fact, the one Americanrnservice that has never sold itself as a place to earn great pav,rnor even as a place to learn job skills, is the Marine Corps. As yournmight expect, the Corps is also the one American service that isrnnot suffering dramatic personnel shortages.rnIgnoring this lesson, the Pentagon is lobbying hard to raisernpay by as much as ten percent across the board. (Of course, thisrnbenefits admirals and generals the most, ranks in which therernare no personnel shortages.) The Pentagon is also loweringrnstandards. Weight and fitness requirements are being relaxed.rnCreater numbers of enlistees are being accepted without highschoolrndiplomas. The effect? As one Army staff sergeant in Korearnwrote to Chuck Spinney:rnthe bad news is that the Army is in a position vhere wernwill not be able to get rid of our duds. As the recruitingrnAUGUST 1999/21rnrnrn