WASHINGTON — The Army is dramatically increasing cash bonuses for enlistees and preparing to put hundreds of new recruiters on the streets, anticipating that it will have an increasingly tough time finding recruits, the USA Today reported in Thursday editions.

The Army expects to meet its goal of 77,000 new active-duty recruits for the 2004 fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30.

But officials are far less certain about next year, when the service will have to persuade 80,000 young adults to sign up in the midst of a prolonged guerrilla war in Iraq and an improving economy at home, the article said.

Cash bonuses in some hard-to-fill specialties will rise to a maximum of $15,000, more than double the previous top bonus of $6,000 for a three-year enlistment. The top bonus for most recruits will rise to $10,000.

Because of an increased demand for recruits this year, the Army has been rushing delayed-entry soldiers into basic training ahead of schedule. That has depleted the pool of soldiers who would have reported next year and added to the burden for recruiters.

Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute, told USA Today that the signs point to difficult times ahead.

“This is not a good situation. The National Guard is not meeting its recruiting numbers, the active-duty Army is having to take unusual steps just to meet its numbers. The practice of putting delayed-entry personnel in right now assures that after the election the numbers will not be met.”

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