With the right mission plan, a group of young, intelligent, resourceful soldiers and the best technology that money can buy, there wasn’t much that Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz couldn’t accomplish during his 43 year U.S. Army career.
This included defeating the improvised explosive device as a weapon of strategic influence as part of his mission during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
These days, Metz is enjoying retirement as a speaker and educator and recently addressed the Southern Crop Consultant Meeting, sponsored by MANA, during the week of the Mid-South Farm and Gin Show in Memphis.
He talked about three big challenges in America’s future.
One is servicing the nation’s substantial debt. While interest on the national debt is currently the fourth highest federal budget item at around $440 billion annually, an increase in the interest rate from the current 2 percent to 4 percent would double it to $880 billion and propel it past the top three– Medicare/Medicaid, Social Security and national defense and security.
Metz is also worried about rising energy demand in developing countries. For example, if just 20 percent of China’s population moved into the middle-class, China would become an energy consumer on par with the United States, one of the world’s biggest users of energy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because energy consumption goes hand in hand with productivity and prosperity. But it does underscore the need to develop new and/or more efficient sources of energy to meet this demand.
What strikes closest to home for Metz is the dwindling percentage of America’s youth that qualify for the armed services.
Mets noted that just a few years ago, a scant 30 percent of military-age youth (between 17 and 24) were eligible for service. Youths not eligible either did not have a high school diploma, had a felony on their record or were physically unfit, most of the time because of obesity.
It’s not getting better.
Metz said that recently, the percentage has dropped to 23 percent. With such slim pickings, Metz has a very real concern about America’s ability to sustain a viable, enterprising and superior force to defend the country.
Metz says one solution is to bring back some type of mandatory military service, perhaps an 18-month stint, for military-age youth.
It would provide American youth some “skin in the game” in the country’s future, impart an appreciation for the sacrifices previous generations have made and perhaps foster a multi-generational appreciation for mental and physical fitness.
Metz says that most of those in the army’s chain of command recognize the value of such an undertaking, but have said it’s cost-prohibitive. But what will be the cost to America in a dozen or so years from now? Hopefully, the 77 percent of Americans not eligible for military duty today will have gotten their acts together by then.
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