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OP-ED | In Support of Connecticut Military Service

by Rep. David Alexander | Apr 28, 2014 10:24pm
(12) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Opinion, Enfield

I write in response to Mr. Pat Elder’s Op-Ed article published in the CTNewsJunkie on April 21, 2014, regarding SB 423: An Act Concerning Student Privacy and the Administration of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (“ASVAB”). The ASVAB is a military aptitude test that serves as an entrance exam for the military and a means to slate potential recruits with specific jobs. SB 423 would require parental consent if the student is a minor before the student’s ASVAB score is released to military recruiters. While SB 423 is a well-intended bill, I worry it produces negative, unintended consequences for Connecticut students as well as the overall military culture.

In his Op-Ed, Mr. Elder starts by expressing his frustration that the bill was referred to the Veterans’ Affairs Committee after it was approved by a 22-10 vote in the Education Committee.  As a member of the Veteran Affairs Committee, I can attest to the committee’s importance and oversight of this issue. Two legislative sessions ago, it was correctly decided to make the Veterans’ Affairs Committee a full-standing committee rather than a “select” committee. As a consequence, the Co-Chairs of the Veteran Affairs Committee can bring legislation directly to the House and Senate floors like any other full-standing committee. The committee also has a history of addressing military recruiting issues. For instance in 2013 the committee raised SB 836 which dealt with military recruiting, and also, the fact that SB 423 directly affects the military lends credence that the bill should have been referred to the committee.

Moreover, I respectfully disagree with Mr. Elder’s policy arguments regarding SB 423. My own personal military story will serve to explain my position. I was a junior in college when the tragedy of 9/11 befell on all of us. Like many in my generation, this horrific event was the catalyst that drove me to military service. At the time, a few of my classmates were becoming commissioned officers in the United States Marine Corps, and the Marine Corps Officer Program appealed to me for many reasons.

Despite my aspirations of a military commission, numerous family members and friends discouraged me from participating in the program, and I felt compelled to go to law school instead. Throughout my time in law school, I still had a burning desire to serve in the military. This yearning is what propelled me to attend the Marine Corps’ Officer Candidate School (“OCS”) after graduating from law school. The experience at OCS affirmed my regret in not joining the Corps before law school. Perhaps, I would have been a more focused law student after four years of Active Duty service. At the very least, my student loan debt would be much lower due because I would have taken advantage of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill.

I mention my story because I can envision that many well-intended parents may discourage their children from joining the military as they enter adulthood post-high school. My parents did, and they now regret it. Both my parents have concluded that I greatly benefited from only four years of Active Duty service, and both encouraged me to become a reserve Marine Corps officer. I believe that passage of SB 423 would create situations in which parents’ de facto veto power over their child’s decision to pursue a military career could cause more harm. I am cognizant these students are minors, but as they transition into adulthood they should have an unfettered opportunity to pursue a future career, be it in the job market, in college or in the military.

I acknowledge that Mr. Elder does raise very valid privacy concerns, but they are red herrings. First, all males upon becoming 18 must register with the Selective Service for a potential military draft, and in doing so, their Social Security Number (“SSN”) is sent to the Department of Defense (“DOD”). Women are currently taking on more combat focused roles within the military, and I believe someday women may be compelled to register as well. Even if an underage male takes the ASVAB, their personal information is merely relayed to the DOD within a year of the compulsory registration with the Selective Service. At any rate, their SSNs eventually will make it to the DOD. Moreover, Lieutenant Colonel Michael Coleman, U.S. Army, submitted testimony to the Education Committee in which he stated that Federal and Connecticut law require high schools to submit student contact information to recruiters for all high school students in the 11th and the 12th grades.

As an administrative officer in the Marine Corps, I can also assert that recruiters and other service members tasked with compiling personnel data are trained and inspected yearly regarding privacy laws. Therefore, any service member working with personnel data is put on notice about the sensitivity of this information, and they are mandated to abide by strict procedures to protect this information.

I also worry that SB 423 would produce a slippery slope that would eventually prohibit military recruiters from visiting Connecticut high schools without parental consent. It is very common for military recruiters to give presentations and talk with high school students about the vast career options available to them in the military. I am concerned that SB 423 would be the first step in banning this important military-to-student interaction.

Finally, I believe there are some people who still harbor resentment and mistrust of the military as a consequence of the Vietnam War. I worry that this Vietnam-era distrust is imbued within SB 423, and the consequence of going forward with this bill is to further encourage discordancy between the all-volunteer force and the civilian population it protects. At the root of it all, laws like SB 423 will hurt diversity in the military. Nate Fick, a former Marine Corps officer and author of One Bullet Away, wrote about his experience in transitioning from an upper-middleclass, young Dartmouth College graduate to an infantry platoon commander. This book served as a rallying cry for a subset of male and female college students in my generation. It was a significant reason why many of us journeyed to OCS in the hopes of starting a career leading Marines. Fick — a past member of a Washington think-tank, current CEO of a security intelligence company, and member of the Council of Foreign Relations — worries that the military’s lack of socioeconomic diversity will negatively affect the military culture. He argues that the military needs smart and talented men and women from a cross-section of American communities to improve the military’s culture. I worry that SB 423 would foster more distrust of the military and would work against improving military diversity. Perhaps, a more diverse military organization would produce more prudent foreign policy decisions.

In my opinion, SB 423 only furthers the cultural divide between the all-volunteer force and the civilian population. The bill would discourage a wider cross-section of young adults from joining the military. We only have to look at the recent past when ROTC units were forced out of college campuses. I respect the proponents of the bill and their position. However, I worry that the bill would produce drastic unintended consequences.

David Alexander is the State Representative for Enfield’s 58th District. He served four years on Active Duty in the United States Marine Corps. He is currently a Captain in the Marine Corps Reserve where he serves as the Executive Officer for H&S Company with 1st Battalion, 25th Marines.

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(12) Comments

posted by: Skerin | April 29, 2014  11:22am

Whoa! You are an elected official openly admitting that the test is designed to circumvent the parents of underage youth. That’s really messed up! Can’t you even pretend like the parents matter.

posted by: krh | April 29, 2014  2:15pm

I find it sad that as a representative of the people Mr. Alexander apparently feels obligated and qualified to deliberately bypass parental oversight in this manner. He should be standing up for and looking out for the privacy rights of our families, not working against them. Parents, not Mr. Alexander, should have the right to say whether or not their child’s information is released. Shame on him.

posted by: GBear423 | April 29, 2014  2:20pm

GBear423

How about the kids and the parents worry about who matters? I sincerely think there are alot more things for Mom to worry about her 16yr old doing than an ASVAB test… Really people this is something some parents may be proud of, I do not get you fine Americans here in CT.

posted by: kbarker | April 29, 2014  2:59pm

This is a disturbing letter, with such duplicitous and childish thinking that I fear for the quality of leadership in this country.

This was not a veterans issue legislatively, but an educational one: this was about students, and not about the military. The bill should not have been routed to the Veterans Affairs Committee.

That Rep Alexander might have been a better law student had he gone into the military is not a reason to rationalize an often -mandatory test that gives student personal information to military recruiters without permission.  He dishonestly says that Federal and state law already says that 11th and 12 grade student information must be sent to the military: NCLB and FERPA actually say that students and parents must be given the option to refuse this.  The ASVAB bill had nothing to do with anything David Alexander wrote about here.     

That student information is being given to recruiters without student or family knowledge, contrary to FERPA or NCLB is the sole legal issue this bill raises….and it was handled by testimony by Michael Coleman and by this letter of David Alexander’s without clarity or integrity or relevance.

posted by: BlackJack03 | April 29, 2014  3:52pm

I agree with Representative Alexander and that students should be allowed to take the ASVAB test without having to ask permission first.  It is simply a test to see what options may be available within the military.  At 16 we allow our kids to drive cars, ask colleges for information about enrollment and admittance and even allow them to have abortions without parental notification.  We trust our children to make many important choices and this simply allows them to take and test and see what career fields may be open to them.  If they choose to pursue military service before they turn 18, then they must bring their parents to table.  The Veterans Committee deals with much more than just issues effecting our veterans, including tax policy, education policies for our armed services to name a few.  Maybe it would be better to rename the committee.  I applaud Rep. Alexander for his service to our country and this state and for advocating on behalf of high school students to not limit their choices or privacy.

posted by: Matt from CT | April 29, 2014  3:53pm

@kbarker:
>This is a disturbing
>letter, with such
>duplicitous and childish >thinking that I fear for
>the quality of leadership
>in this country.

Pot, kettle.  Black.

The bill has nothing to do with education or privacy but by the proud, public admission of one directors of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy that wrote the advocates for the bill, and wrote the op-ed for it and bemoaning that it went to the Veterans Committee, the organization is a one trick pony designed to attack the military on this single issue—because their members are die hard opponents of the military.

===========
>At the root of it all,
>laws like SB 423 will
>hurt diversity in the
>military.

It’s beyond even just socio-economic issues.

The Greater Appalachia & Deep South cultural regions of the U.S. (see Colin Woodward’s 11 nations) are already heavily overrepresented in the military service. 

The efforts of left-wing peace groups to further undermine recruiting in “blue states” will only further decrease diversity and represenativeness in the military of the country as a whole.

posted by: GBear423 | April 29, 2014  4:26pm

GBear423

Could someone explain the worst thing that could happen if an Armerd Forces recruiter has the ASVAB results of a 16 to 17 yr old?

I’m a dad to a 16 yr old girl, and an Army Veteran, who joined at age 17. I hold libertarian views. I see no threat here, my child is quite intelligent enought to tell a recruiter no thanks (takes after her artsy fartsy mom). Why are you guys scared? Have independent thinking kids? /shrug

posted by: Skerin | April 29, 2014  4:38pm

If anything, at least we now know that the intent to circumvent the parent is entirely deliberate. Mark and GBear, you were on the original thread and were calling parents idiots because they weren’t aware their kids were taking the test. Now at least you admit that parents may not be as dumb as you originally purported. It is being kept from them because after all it is really just none of our business.

posted by: krh | April 29, 2014  5:01pm

BlackJack03, the bill would not have required the student to obtain permission in order to take the test. The bill simply would have prevented that student’s private data (contact & demographic info along with test results) from being automatically released to the recruitment services. Those are two very different things. The bill was a reasonable and commonsense solution to common student privacy loophole. Shame on the Veteran Affairs committee for killing it.

posted by: GBear423 | April 30, 2014  5:50am

GBear423

@Skerin

I never called Parents idiots. i said the Bill is a waste of time, it makes no sense, and maybe I called the proponents of the Bill idiots, but not parents.  Its a test that is OBVIOUSLY meant to be used for recruiting. If the kid takes the test, they KNOW its for recruiting. The kids have a right , imho, to pursue INFORMATION on career/job options. Their parents should not hinder that pursuit.

The Parents do have a right to say NO (or yes) if the recruiter wants to recruit the kid before the 18th birthday.

posted by: Skerin | April 30, 2014  11:14am

GBear. First off, my apologies. I reread the blog and your “idiot” reference was not about parents. Though your “common sense” reference has a read-between-the-lines reference. The good thing about this thread is the narrative has changed with Alexander acknowledging that the attempts to exclude the parent are not a figment of our imagination but deliberate. Until our kids are 18, they are our business and we have the right to be engaged in all aspects of their lives and decisions. We may choose not to exert that right and loosen the apron strings or decide to be overly-protective. We may want our kids to go into the military or counter/shield our youth from that influence as long as we are able to. Some of our kids may be intelligent enough like your 16 year old daughter and others of us have kids who we love dearly but are more vulnerable to peer pressure and sales pitches. But at the end of it all, it is our right and whether you agree with the parenting style or not, it should be respected. The branding of the military is about honor. It is not honorable to deliberately try to circumvent the parents on this. There doesn’t need to be any paperwork. Just automatically send the test scores home to mom and if the recruiter wants it, he can just ask for it. This doesn’t cost the school anything. In fact, it takes them totally out of the equation.

posted by: nutmeg_libertar | May 1, 2014  10:35am

Does Rep. Alexander really think the ASVAB just permits recruiters to see a student’s Social Security number? C’mon, we all know it’s much more than that: 3 hours’ worth of data (that’s how long the test lasts), along w/ sensitive demographic info!

Look, here’s the main reason we need a bill like this: while existing federal law may require high schools to provide recruiters with their students’ contact info, the same law (No Child, Sec. 9528) also lets parents OPT OUT of such arrangements if they’d rather protect their child’s privacy. (as kbarker pointed out in her comment) ASVAB won’t let parents do that. Thus, SB 423 would fill a big hole in Conn. student privacy law.