August 10, 2006

US Army seen reaching recruiting goal despite war

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Army, which fell short in
recruiting last year, made its 14th straight monthly goal in
July and is expected to hit its 2006 target despite the Iraq
war making recruiting harder, officials said on Thursday.

Jeff Spara, in charge of Army recruiting policy, denied the
Army has been making its recruiting goals by taking
lower-quality volunteers who previously might have been
rejected, as some experts contend.

"It looks very good right now," Spara said of the
active-duty Army reaching its goal of 80,000 new soldiers in
fiscal 2006, which ends September 30. It fell about 7,000
recruits short of the same numerical goal in fiscal 2005.

Spara said it was "too close to call" whether the Army's
part-time components, the National Guard and Reserve, will
reach their 2006 targets. Both missed their July quotas and
fell short last year.

The Army provides the bulk of U.S. ground forces in Iraq.
Spara said the war continues to complicate recruiting, with
parents and other influential adults more likely than in the
past to counsel potential recruits against volunteering.

The Army sent 10,890 recruits into boot camp in July,
exceeding its biggest goal of the year of 10,450 and pushing it
4 percent above its year-to-date goal. The Army has landed
62,505 recruits through July, and needs 17,495 more in the
final two months of fiscal 2006 to meet its goal.

The Army National Guard missed its July goal by 25 percent
and stood 1 percent behind its year-to-date goal. The Army
Reserve missed its July goal by 13 percent and also was 1
percent behind its year-to-date goal.

The Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force made their July
recruiting goals. The part-time Navy Reserve missed, and
trailed its year-to-date goal by 16 percent.

Spara attributed the Army's success to several steps taken
to boost recruiting, including monetary enlistment incentives,
raising the enlistment age limit to a person's 42nd birthday,
adding recruiters, and relaxing a ban on certain types of

Some critics have questioned the quality of some recruits
entering the Army. They note the Army is taking more recruits
with criminal records, mostly misdemeanors; with body weight
exceeding maximum body weight standards; and who fall into the
military's lowest acceptable quality category.

"They're taking in less-qualified people," said Lawrence
Korb, an assistant secretary of defense under President Ronald
Reagan. "Now, what they (Army leaders) will argue is that they
are still above the minimum standards."

But Korb, an analyst with the Center for American Progress,
said when the Army brings in more people who do not meet its
highest standards, it increases the chances of misconduct in
the ranks and of having a less-capable force.

Spara defended the quality of the new recruits, saying,
"You know, it's a question of whether you want a bagel or you
want angel food cake. They're both bread."

"They are qualified medically, physically and morally," he

The U.S. military moved to an all-volunteer force in 1973,
during the tumult of the Vietnam War era.

Some analysts have said if the military cannot attract
enough recruits, the United States might have to consider
reinstating the draft.