- The Washington Times - Friday, August 11, 2006

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Army says it will meet its 2006 recruiting goal, pulling itself up from a severe shortfall last year. The Pentagon’s largest service — and the one bearing the brunt of the burden in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — enlisted 10,890 persons last month.

That brings the total to 62,505 for the year and puts the Army on course to meet its goal of 80,000 for the budget year ending next month, Jeff Spara, Army recruiting division chief, said yesterday.

“We are going to make the mission,” he said at a Pentagon briefing, crediting an array of changes that included adding more recruiters, boosting pay bonuses and other incentives and changing policies on eligibility.

Mr. Spara challenged contentions that the service was lowering its standards for recruits because it has been stretched thin after three years of an increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

“They are qualified medically, physically and morally to perform the duties that they are enlisted for,” Mr. Spara said.

A hard push to sign up more recruits has been under way since the Army ended last year nearly 7,000 people short of its goal, the first shortfall since 1999 and its largest in 26 years.

Despite the expected success of this year, Mr. Spara said, next year is “going to be just as tough” as this one. He cited no significant change in the nation’s economy nor in its employment rates, factors that give people other job choices.

Separately, the Defense Department announced that all other services met or exceeded their goals in July. The Navy and Air Force were at 100 percent, signing 4,043 and 2,130, respectively. The Marine Corps was at 112 percent, signing 3,197 recruits against a goal of under 2,900.

The other services had met their goals in 2005.

Though all active-duty forces are expected to meet their goals this year, the Guard and Reserve may not fare as well. Mr. Spara said it is “too close to call” whether the Army National Guard and Army Reserve will enlist all they are looking for.

As for re-enlistments during the first 10 months of the 2006 fiscal year, 60,666 active-duty soldiers have signed to stay in the service. The goal is 64,200.


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