The Defense Department began working Wednesday with a private marketing firm to create a database of all U.S. college students, and high school students between 16 and 18 years old, to help the military identify potential recruits in a time of dwindling enlistment in some branches.
The database will include personal information including birth dates, Social Security numbers, e-mail addresses, grade point averages, ethnicity and subjects students are studying.
The data will be managed by BeNow Inc. of Wakefield, Mass., one of many marketing firms that use computers to analyze data to target potential customers based on personal profiles and habits.
“The purpose of the system … is to provide a single central facility within the Department of Defense to compile, process and distribute files of individuals who meet age and minimum school requirements for military service,” according to the program’s official notice.
Some data on high school students already is given to military recruiters in a separate program under provisions of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act. Recruiters have been using the information to contact students at home, angering some parents and school districts around the country.
School systems that fail to provide data risk losing federal funds, although individual parents or students can withhold information that would be transferred to the military by their districts.
Under the new system, additional data will be collected from commercial data brokers, state drivers’ license records and other sources, including information already held by the military.
The Pentagon’s statements said that anyone can “opt out” of the system by providing detailed personal information that will be kept in a separate “suppression file.” That file will be matched with the full database regularly to ensure that those who do not wish to be contacted are not, according to the Pentagon.