October 3, 2005

US Army leaders say “no crisis” in recruitment

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Army leaders on Monday said
there was no crisis in recruitment despite figures showing a
big shortfall in new soldiers in the latest fiscal year, partly
caused by concerns over the war in Iraq.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey told reporters he was
concerned about recruitment levels in the last 12 months, which
saw the biggest numerical shortfall of the goal since 1979. But
he added: "Is this a crisis? No, it's not a crisis."

Expressing optimism for the future, he laid out a series of
measures the army was planning to tackle the problem, including
big financial incentives and a larger force of recruiters.

In the fiscal year that ended on Friday, Harvey said the
Army ended just under 7,000 recruits short of its annual goal
of 80,000 recruits. It was one of the Army's poorest recruiting
performances since the birth of the all-volunteer military in
1973 during the upheaval of the Vietnam War era.

The Army missed an annual recruiting goal for the first
time since 1999. The part-time Army Reserve and Army National
Guard also missed their 2005 recruiting goals.

Harvey, speaking during an Association of the U.S. Army
convention, said the figures should be put in perspective.

"Over the last 10 years the average recruiting number is
about 74,200. Our final numbers are about 73,200 to 73,300, so
we're about 1,000, or one percent, off our average recruits for
the last 10 years," Harvey said.

Army officials noted that after a tough spring, the Army
has achieved every monthly recruiting goal since June.

"The last four months of the (fiscal) year, we averaged
about 8,000 recruits. We have a good momentum going right now,"
Harvey said.

Harvey blamed the shortfall on an economy that is offering
young people civilian job opportunities, the Iraq war and
increasing reluctance of parents to let their sons and
daughters enlist. He said he and other Army officials were
stepping up efforts to encourage "service to country."

Gen. Richard Cody, the Army's No. 2 general, noted that
while recruiting new soldiers remained a challenge, the Army
was more successful at convincing current soldiers to stay on,
with reenlistment topping the Army's annual goal by 8 percent.

"If you just look at the recruiting piece, you're missing
it," he said, predicting better recruitment this year.

The Iraq war, in which more than 1,900 U.S. troops have
been killed in 2-1/2 years of combat, represents the first test
of the all-volunteer military during a protracted conflict. The
Army provides the bulk of ground troops in the war.

Harvey said the Army had begun a "whole spectrum of
initiatives," including adding 3,000 recruiters to raise the
total to 12,000, aiming recruitment efforts more at parents,
and increasing the advertising budget by $130 million.

Harvey said the Army was asking Congress to approve a
measure that would raise the top recruitment bonus to $40,000
from $20,000, for selected use for specific Army jobs, as well
as a measure that would pay individual soldiers a "$2,500
finder's fee" for referring new recruits who joined up and
passed basic training and advanced individual training.

Another program would give troops who stayed for four years
a $25,000 bonus for use as a down payment for a home, he said.

Harvey denied the Army was lowering its standards, but said
it had begun observing Pentagon guidelines, which call for 60
percent of recruits to meet certain standards, as opposed to
the Army's previous use of a 67-percent standard.

(Additional reporting by Will Dunham)