ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army National Guard fell decidedly short of its recruiting goals in June, leaving recruiters just three more months to make up the looming gap between the number of contracts in hand and their fiscal 2005 goals.

Army National Guard recruiters hoped to ship 5,032 candidates to boot camp in June, according to statistics released Monday by the Pentagon.

Instead, recruiters tallied just 4,337 “accessions,” as the services call recruits reporting to basic training — 86 percent of the goal.

The Navy Reserve also lagged in June, meeting only 92 percent of its recruiting target, after hitting 94 percent of its May target.

But June was better than May for the other reserve components.

The Marine Corps Reserve, which met only 88 percent of its goal in May, hit its June goal of 1,194 recruits with all of two people to spare, accessing 1,196 potential Marines.

The Air National Guard, whose recruiters signed up just 78 percent of their May goal, exceeded their June goal of 753 new members, signing up 798 individuals, or 106 percent.

Meanwhile, as previously reported, the active Army and Army Reserve, which had been lagging behind their recruiting goals since February, made their numbers in June.

And the active Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy all met or exceeded their June recruiting goals, according to the the Pentagon.

Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, Chief of the National Guard, acknowledged Tuesday that time is starting to run out for the Guard to meet its fiscal 2005 recruiting goal of 63,002 accessions. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30.

“No, it’s not likely that we’re going to close that gap in the next two months,” Blum told reporters at a Tuesday defense writer’s breakfast.

Though missing goals would mark the second year in row for the Army Guard, Blum said he does not see the situation “as a crisis.”

“Those goals that you’re talking about are artificial goals that are frankly, honestly meaningless,” Blum said.

Instead, he said, “The goal that you really want to keep your eye on is my authorized end strength” of 350,000 soldiers, “and my assigned strength,” which is currently about 330,000 troops.

“I need roughly 20,000 soldiers” to fill the gap, Blum said.

The problem, Blum said, is that in today’s high-deployment environment, the Army Guard has to compete with the regular Army and the Marine Corps “for exactly the same individuals.”

And with eight Army Guard combat brigades scheduled to be in Iraq by the end of the month, July 2005 “is the high-water mark” of the component’s participation in the war on terror, Blum said.

“That is significant, because the National Guard does its own recruiting and its mostly word-of-mouth,” Blum said. “All the people who would normally be generating their buddies to come into the Guard are in Baghdad.”

Blum predicted that the Army Guard would be able to make up for its personnel shortfall “probably in the next 18 months.”

If I can’t close that [gap],” Blum said, “then I’ve got to ask for additional incentives, I’ve got to ask for more bonuses, I’ve got to start changing some of the business models of how we’re going to get there.”

“But I don’t see the National Guard going Chapter 11,” Blum said. “I think we can compete. I really do.”

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