Army reaches recruiting goals at increasing costs to taxpayers
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Army is spending more taxpayer cash each year to meet recruiting goals.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the Pentagon, Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, head of the Army’s Recruiting Command, said it costs “about $18,000 to bring a soldier to basic training.”
Command spokesman Doug Smith later clarified that Bostick was referring to fiscal 2006 accession numbers. The actual fiscal 2006 cost was $18,295 per recruit, he said.
In fiscal 2005, that cost per recruit was $16,199; in 2004, $15,967. Although he did not have the precise figure for prior years, Smith said that in 2002 and 2001 the cost per recruit was in the $12,000 to $13,000 range.
The expenditures are necessary in part because of flagging attitudes among important group of what the Army calls primary influencers — parents.
In March 2004, Bostick said, 43 percent of mothers and 53 percent of fathers polled said they would encourage their child to join the Army.
Today, Bostick said, just “25 percent of moms and 33 percent of fathers” would encourage their kids to join.
In a Wednesday telephone interview with Stars and Stripes, Northwestern University’s Charlie Moskos, the country’s leading military sociologist, said that until the war in Iraq ends, the Army’s issue with parents won’t get better.
“It’s the war [in Iraq]; there’s no question about it,” Moskos said. “There’s no way this will resolve itself as long as the casualties keep going on and on.”
Influencers — which also include teachers and coaches — have a significant impact, not only before a young person meets a recruiter but after he or she decides to join, Bostick said. He expects to take 10,000 future soldier losses in fiscal 2007 in the form of recruits who back out before hitting boot camp.
Some will drop out because they gain too much weight, or get into trouble with the law, Bostick said, but “a large number” will back out because someone will talk them out of going at the last minute.
There are higher advertising costs and the increased costs of a larger recruiting force, but a significant reason behind the increased cost is larger bonuses, Bostick said.
The average bonus recruits are getting for signing up in the active Army this year is about $15,000, compared to about $12,000 in fiscal 2006, Bostick said.
That bonus average has been boosted since July, when the Army put a blanket $20,000 Quick Shipper offer into effect. The bonus applies to recruits with no prior military service who enlist for at least four years and agree to report to basic training within 30 days of enlistment.
As of July — the most recent recruiting numbers available — the active-duty Army was slightly ahead of its recruiting goals for the year, with 61,864 soldiers signed up, compared to a goal of 60,900, Bostick said.
The Army Reserve, was slightly behind on its year-to-date goal, short by 179 soldiers, with 21,496 recruited.
The Army will not release its August recruiting numbers until Sept. 10, when the Defense Department releases all of the services’ recruiting figures.
Bostick hinted that, bolstered by the $20,000 Quick Shipper bonus that is still in effect until Sept. 30, the Army’s recruiters did well.
“We had a very strong August,” he said. “We’re well-postured to go into September.”