Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Army failed to meet its recruiting goal in June, raising concern that the unpopular Iraq war and strong economy could wreak even more havoc on enlistments.

Army officials acknowledged yesterday that the service missed its recruiting target for the second month in a row but would not provide exact numbers. Two defense officials said the Army fell short of its 8,400 goal by about 15 percent — which is more than twice the June shortfall and would mean that roughly 7,000 recruits signed up.

The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because the recruiting numbers are not scheduled for release until today.

Last month the Army said it recruited 5,101 soldiers in May, about 7 percent short of its 5,500 goal for that month.

Army spokesman Col. Dan Baggio said the Army is still on track to meet its annual goal of 80,000 recruits for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, because it had exceeded targets earlier in the year.

But he added, “This is not necessarily a rosy picture. We’re not taking this lightly.”

The slip in May was the first time in about two years that the Army did not meet recruiting goals. It came as the Pentagon struggles to increase the overall size of the Army and Marine Corps as part of an effort to provide the war-fighting capability needed.

The military is fighting two wars — in Iraq and Afghanistan — and fielding the combat units needed for the conflicts has put massive strains on an already stretched Army.

In addition to the increasing unhappiness with the war, Col. Baggio said recruiting has been hampered because seven in 10 potential recruits do not meet Army standards. They are largely failing to meet weight and education requirements.

Also, Curt Gilroy, the Pentagon’s director of accession policy, said in a recent Associated Press interview that the global war on terror is causing many parents and other adults who influence young people to steer them away from military service. At the same time, Mr. Gilroy said, the U.S. economy has been strong, providing more lucrative job prospects.

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