Opt-out, JAMRS, & ASVAB
Peace activists are having little effect when they focus on "opt-out" campaigns narrowly designed to encourage parents to complete a form that removes their child's name, address, and phone number from lists being forwarded to military recruiters from high schools across the country. Today's military has numerous ways to gather the same information. Meanwhile, other tactics proven to counter the alarming militarization of our schools are being overlooked.
Almost immediately after the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act, (NCLB) in 2001, antiwar groups across the country began organizing their communities in response to Section 9528 of the law. This section provides military recruiters the names, addresses, and phone numbers of high school students provided that parents and students are given the opportunity to "opt out" of the lists being forwarded to recruiters. The law directs schools to notify parents of the right to opt out, but many schools throughout the country failed to do so. Right away, programs sprung up across the country, encouraging parents to opt out and providing forms for them to do so.
Many became convinced that "opting out" kept recruiters at bay, but he effectiveness of this tactic has been rendered largely inconsequential due in part to a quantum leap in the Pentagon's information gathering capabilities. From electronic trolling of social websites to purchasing information from yearbook and ring companies -- military recruiting services know what's in Johnny's head, if Johnny has a girlfriend, and what she thinks of his decision regarding enlistment. The laptops of local recruiters are loaded with personal information on youth. For instance, the Army's PrizmNE segmentation system combines demographic, consumer behavior, and geographic data pertaining to individual prospects. The information is merged with data from social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and the result is staggering. Recruiters know Johnny reads wrestling magazines, weighs 150, can bench press 230, drives a ten year-old Chevy truck, listens to "classic rock," and enjoys fly fishing.
Name, address, and phone number? The Pentagon might know if a prospect has had gingivitis.
A lot of this information is stored in the Pentagon's little known "Joint Advertising Market Research Studies" (JAMRS) database, a massive registry of 30 million Americans between the ages of 16 and 25. It encompasses: Full name, date of birth, gender, address, city, state, zip code, e-mail address, ethnicity, telephone number, high school name, graduation date, grade point average (GPA) code, education level, college intent, military interest, field of study, current college attending, ASVAB Test date, and Armed Forces Qualifying Test Category Score.
Although there is no way to keep personal information out of the JAMRS database, the New York Civil Liberties Union provides a method for opting out. This will place information in a suppression file and make it inaccessible to recruiters. (To be clear, there are two opt-out campaigns, one pertaining to JAMRS and other to NCLB.)
Meanwhile, Quakers in a small southeastern Pennsylvania town join youthful radicals in an L.A. suburb and hundreds of groups across the country in campaigns to pressure high school administrators to notify parents of their right to opt out of lists being forwarded to recruiters. They distribute flyers in front of the local high school and they suggest that recruiters will be held at bay if only parents would fill out the form and drop it off in the main office. It's a nice thought, but it's off the mark and sadly unfortunate. Their collective indignation should be channeled to confront one of the Pentagon's most effective recruiting programs in the high schools: the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program or ASVAB CEP.
Although a student may have had his or her name removed from school lists being sent to recruiters, the NCLB opt out provision does not cover the ASVAB. Meanwhile, ASVAB results are stored in the JAMRS database.
The ASVAB opens the door to Johnny's cognitive abilities, something recruiting services can't purchase or find on line. Johnny's social, intellectual, and mechanical dimensions are combined to create a precise, virtual portrait. As one high-level DoD official put it, "It's all about info before first contact."