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Accessions Chief: No Crisis in State of Military Recruiting

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2005 – Despite headlines to the contrary, there's no crisis in the military's recruiting efforts, the Pentagon's director of accession policy told American Forces Press Service.

Alarm bells sounded after the Army missed its recruiting goal for February by 1,900 people, but Curt Gilroy said he and the Army leadership are "cautiously optimistic" that this is a temporary setback and that the Army will meet its end-of-year goal of 80,000 recruits.

The Army's February recruiting shortfall -- the first time the Army has fallen short of its monthly recruiting goal since before Sept. 11, 2001 -- may not be the last before the anticipated upswing, Gilroy acknowledged. Spring months are typically challenging for recruiters, because the previous year's high school graduates have already entered the military or chosen another career option, and the current year's graduates won't be available until June.

And although many high school students sign up for military service under delayed entry programs before graduating, military recruiters don't count them against their numbers until they actually ship off for basic training. As important as it is to get would-be recruits to sign their names on the dotted line, they're not considered "accessions" until they report for duty, he explained. "That's the number that directly relates to readiness," Gilroy said.

As it devotes more recruiters, advertising dollars and incentives to encourage young people into its ranks, the Army is refusing to sacrifice quality for quantity, Gilroy said.

The Army is keeping its quality standards -- measured by the percentages of recruits with high school diplomas and who score in the top 50 percent of the Armed Forces Qualification Test -- above DoD-established thresholds and its own self-imposed standards. So far this year, 91 percent of Army recruits were high school graduates, compared to the Defense Department's 90 percent benchmark. Seventy-six percent of new recruits scored in the top half of the AFQT, compared to DoD's 60 percent threshold.

"Quality matters," Gilroy said, noting that higher-quality recruits are easier to train, perform better on the job, and generally have fewer disciplinary problems.

Working to draw more members into its ranks while keeping standards high is a considerable challenge, Gilroy acknowledged, particularly since the Army boosted its end-strength figures last year. The Army's 80,000-recruit goal for fiscal 2005 is 3,000 higher than last year's requirement and 6,200 higher than the previous year's, he pointed out.

And the Army's bottom-line requirement is far higher than that of the other services. The Navy, the service with the second-highest end-of-year mission, has a recruiting goal of 38,500, less than half the Army's. The Marine Corps needs 33,050 and the Air Force, 18,900.

The Navy and Air Force, both in the midst of force drawdowns, are expected to have "no trouble" meeting this year's recruiting requirements, Gilroy said. And the Marine Corps, while working harder to fill its ranks, is also expected to reach its year-end goal.

Gilroy dismissed concerns that the Marine Corps had come up short in its recruiting numbers. Although the service fell short of its goal for recruits signing contracts in January, it made its monthly accession goal, the number that matters most, he said.

What's behind the shortfall in recruiting efforts is anyone's guess, Gilroy said. It could be the result of a growing economy, views about the war, or the tendency of more students to go directly to college or two-year schools after high school. Another possible factor, he said, is the fact that many adults aren't steering young people toward military service.

But regardless of the causes, Gilroy said he and the Army are confident that the setback is temporary.

"Some people argue that we are in a crisis," he said. "There is no crisis."

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