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WASHINGTON — The military recruiting situation won’t improve until Iraq stabilizes, even if defense officials continue to increase bonuses and benefits, the senior Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee said.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., said the United States needs to show real progress in that country, either toward stability and lower casualty counts or toward security independence by Iraqi forces, before the recruiting problems that plagued the military this year begin to improve.

“I don’t know what more they can do,” he said at a meeting with reporters Wednesday. “They’ve got bonuses increasing significantly. … But the dynamic there is so negative, the problems are just going to continue.”

Levin’s committee is considering Pentagon requests to increase maximum bonuses for enlistment as one means of drawing more people to active duty and reserve forces. He did not indicate whether he would oppose the requests.

Official recruiting statistics for fiscal 2005, which ended Sept. 30, won’t be released by defense officials until next week. But Army recruiters missed their monthly goals for four consecutive months in the spring, and are expected to fall short of their year-end target of 80,000 new soldiers. The Army did say re-enlistments were running ahead of expectations.

Levin said the unstable security situation in Iraq has left the military “overstretched, particularly the National Guard and Reserve forces,” and that the steady casualty count from the conflict has negatively affected the public’s attitude, which will discourage even more potential recruits from considering the armed forces.

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