Recruiting goals for March met in all branches
WASHINGTON — Army recruiters hit their enlistment targets for the sixth straight month this fiscal year but will still need a strong summer push to reach their year-end goals.
The Defense Department announced Monday that all four services had met or surpassed their recruiting goals for March, in contrast to the Army and Marines’ recruiting shortfalls this time last year. All four services are above their year-to-date targets to find new troops.
Halfway through this fiscal year the Army has brought in only 31,369 new soldiers, 3.5 percent above what officials had hoped for at this point.
That’s only 39 percent of the service’s 80,000 soldier year-end goal. In order to reach that mark, they’ll have to increase the number of recruits dramatically over the next six months, including reaching goals of more than 30,000 new faces in July, August and September combined.
Doug Smith, spokesman for Army recruiting command, said that backloading of the recruiting class has been planned; officials typically change the monthly goals each year based on recent trends and when resources will be available.
In fiscal 2005, the Army recruited nearly the same number of soldiers in the first half of the year — 32,105 — but found themselves 11 percent behind their targets, which officials set because they anticipated better winter recruiting, Smith said.
The force finished last year 6,627 soldiers short of its 80,000 recruiting goal.
The current recruiting numbers and projections drew praise from House members at an Armed Services Military Personnel subcommittee hearing last week, but several Congressmen expressed concern about the quality of the recruits so far.
David Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said at the hearing that through February about 16 percent of the Army’s recruits did not graduate from high school, significantly above the department’s mandate that no more than 10 percent of the total class can lack diplomas.
Subcommittee chairman John McHugh, R-N.Y., told the witness panel that any indication that the skills or aptitude of the new recruits may be dropping is a major concern.
“I understand the pressures to recruit, but I think we have to be cautious and keep our eye on that trend,” he said.
Chu said the Army expects to get that diploma figure back under 10 percent with its recruiting efforts this summer, which will focus on recent high school graduates.
Army Deputy Chief of Staff for personnel Lt. Gen. Franklin Hagenbeck said the number of waivers for “category four” recruits — those who score below average on the Armed Forces Vocational Aptitude Battery — has remained steady over the past five years and won’t exceed the four-percent limit set by law.
The service had maintained a 2 percent limit on those underachievers but relaxed that limit earlier this year. Other efforts to jump-start recruiting efforts included relaxing rules on tattoos, accepting more applicants with minor criminal records, and raising the maximum age for new enlistees from 35 to 42.
Midway through the fiscal year the Air Force has enlisted 15,250 new recruits, nearly half of its goal for the year. The Navy has brought in 15,282 and the Marine Corps 13,260, about 41 percent of their respective year-end targets.
Defense Department officials said all four services are on pace to meet their retention goals for the fiscal year.