The Thousand-Yard Snare

Friday, September 04, 2009


Overstretched and short on recruits, the U.S. military has been going to great lengths to find out everything they can about potential enlistees. The only problem is most of these prospective soldiers are under 18 and, in many cases, are disclosing personal information without their (or their parents) knowledge. Mother Jones columnist David Goodman explains how the U.S. military is working behind the scenes to enlist the youth of America.

Comments [12]

Matthew Collins from Lowell Ma.

So what if the Army is or is not using tournements and or servers to see how well people play or can handle war zones. Also who cares even if they did help underwrite Halo 3....AND....OK let say they did.....Now what, I'm still waiting for the problem.

People have been using hidden agendas to recruit people into all sorts of things for hundreds of years. So let say that this is true on both accounts, why would this be any different.

Want to talk about problems, when the 1st generation PS2 consoles was released in Japan, it was picking upi Military frequencies, just because it is such a powerful system and it had to be recalled. Did we say the military gave us their freqency technology to MS, no we did not. If anything that would be more far more serious than some graphical and or recruitment issues.

Anyway I fail to see what this whole mess is about anyway.

That's the problem with this country, we have a tendency to focus on something so ludicrous such as this, instead of focusing on somehow getting more jobs that pay well.

In closing, this whole topic is idiotic and completely pointless.

Nov. 22 2009 02:57 PM
Caleb from San Diego, CA

I submitted a FOIA request to the Army by fax today requesting any documents which indicate involvement with Bungie or underwriting activities of HALO 3. I'll be happy to pass them along to OTM if / when I receive anything back.

Sep. 10 2009 06:23 PM
Aaron M from Bothell, WA

The information concerning Halo is, in fact, incorrect. Here is what I have been able to learn from having contacted Bungie directly:

"The US Army did not provide Bungie with any graphics to be used in the Halo series of games.
The US Army did not provide Bungie with any funding for the development of the Halo series of games.
There are no links to any of the US Army's websites within the Halo series of games."

It does appear that Mr. Goodman did mistake "Microsoft’s Halo 3 competition that was a promotional vehicle for the Army that they sponsored on Xbox Live last year (which [Bungie] had no official involvement in)," with the actual development of the Halo games, as D. Ross suggested.

Sep. 10 2009 02:54 PM
Chris Burke from Brooklyn, NY

The second half of this story was interesting and a bit alarming. The Army data-mining children is certainly worth looking into. However, the bit about Halo seems very weak. The point made above about what "underwriting" means when we are talking about one of the most profitable entertainment media properties in recent history. It is not at all surprising that the Army supplied graphics for Halo. Ex-military personnel are frequently consulted by video game developers on specifics and while I don't have any facts on this, I imagine that the Army, like NASA, probably offers info and graphics (on weapons, vehicles, uniforms, etc.) considering it free publicity. This does not constitute 'underwriting' and I am curious as to what Goodman meant by that. Maybe there was more info in the MoJo piece? Haven't had a chance to check it out.

A good book for some background on the relationship between the military and the games industry is Ed Halter's "From Sun Tzu to Xbox."

Sep. 09 2009 02:40 PM
Aaron M from Bothell, WA

I sent Bungie a link to this story. A snippet of what I've heard from them most recently: "[...] [Goodman] just has his facts (horribly) wrong..." I understand that they're working on a fact sheet with corrections. I've asked for a copy when it's complete.

Sep. 08 2009 03:39 PM
Aaron M from Bothell, WA

Initial word from Bungie is that such a deal would never have been greenlit. (Greenlighted?) More as I can get it.

Sep. 08 2009 10:17 AM
Aaron M from Bothell, WA

Goodman starts out by saying that the Army spends $24,500 per recruit, while colleges spend $2,000 per incoming student. He uses this to imply that the Army is really going all-out after unsuspecting students. But what we don't know is how many people the Army reaches out to, versus how many recruits actually sign up. It could simply be that the Army's efforts are so inefficient that it takes 10 times the expenditure to get someone in the door. For instance, how many colleges do you know that have stand alone offices coast-to-cost with full-time staff basically waiting for someone to come in the door? And while I remember "Be all that you can be," and have seen the "Army strong" ads, I haven't actually seen the University of Washington (for example) advertising for freshmen on cable TV recently.

Goodman's assertions, re the relationship between Microsoft/Bungie and the Army sound fishy to me, too. I know people at Bungie, and I have an e-mail in to them to ask them if it's true. If they tell me anything, I'll post something here.

Sep. 07 2009 10:40 PM
Brett Greisen from Astoria NY

It's nice to revisit Section 9528 of the NCLB law. Per Google, there are approx. 10,500 concerning required recruiter access to normally protected student info.

This section of the act should be repealed ASAP. It also supersedes the Selective Service Act, which is dormant, but still requires male registration via USPS.

Sep. 07 2009 08:38 AM
D. Ross

Andrew - I came here specifically to ask about the source of Mr. Goodman's information about the US Army being the "primary underwriter" of Halo 3. Being an avid Bungie fan, I was reasonably sure I would have heard about this sooner. A cursory inspection of the Halo 3 manual reveals no references to the US Army and I am honestly not sure where to find "US Army provided graphics" in the game itself, as indicated by Mr. Goodman, which is terrible branding on their part if this is true.

It does seem very reasonable that he meant to say the US Army underwrote the first Halo 3 tournament on Xbox Live, including it's very own Army blade, no doubt replete with "US Army provided graphics." The Army even won an award for that particular marketing campaign! Perhaps Mr. Goodman simply forgot to mention the "tournament" part or glossed it over in favor of making a story more sensational and less factual.

All that said... I find it tremendously ironic the Army is involved with a game about a Navy super soldier who hangs out with Marines.

Sep. 06 2009 11:02 PM
C. H. from Rochester MN

Some of the content with this story is a bit misleading. First, users aren't required to give truthful information when they sign up to use the free test prep.
Recruits need to meet a minimum score on the ASVAB in order to get into the military. The test prep material on can help them achieve that score.
For our high school graduates who can't pass the ASVAB, this free website may be their only study option.

Second, neither Mr. Goodman nor OTM mentioned that parents can request that the high school not give out personal information on their students to the military. I haven't read NCLB. Is this not an option? Was it only discussed and not enacted?

Lastly, a question: For those who can't afford to go to college, what else are they to do but go into the military?

Sep. 06 2009 05:39 PM
Chris Patrick from Boston

Andrew - search for "Halo" and "US Army". It's a known fact that the US Army has been a staunch supporter of the game. In fact they even hosted the first ever Halo tournament. What I'm worried about is that people think this is a concern. The NFL underwrites games and in turn makes a killing off the money. This is just a very clever way of recruiting our next level of military personnel. The military has been a "dream" for many kids growing up. It has its consequences just like every other career. This article is just making a story out of it.

Sep. 06 2009 03:51 PM
Andrew Drinkwater from Madison WI

Mr. Goodman says that the "primary underwriter" for the videogame Halo 3 was the U. S. Army. What does he mean by that exactly?

Bungie, the company that created Halo 3, was owned by Microsoft when Halo 3 was released. The previous game Halo 2 sold over 8 million copies worldwide. The development cost for Halo 3 is estimated at $30 million dollars, with another $30 million dollars in marketing costs. Halo 3 had its own flavor of Mountain Dew, and was sold at 7-elevens when it was released, which really doesn't happen for video games. Microsoft didn't need a co-sponsored deal to afford to make Halo 3. Halo 3 is one of the most profitable products that Microsoft has made in the past decade.

So, I'd like to see a dollar figure. How much money was spent by the US military to "underwrite" Halo 3?

Nevermind the fact that Halo 3 can only be sold to people 17 or older, and that the military constantly advertises everywhere on TV.

Sep. 05 2009 06:49 PM

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