With the Iraq war straining the all-volunteer U.S. military, the Army has missed its recruiting goals in April and expects to do so again in May, while the Marines also fell short, officials said on Monday.
The Army and Marines provide the ground forces fighting rebels in the two-year-old Iraq war that has killed nearly 1,600 U.S. troops. At least 51 American troops died in April.
The active-duty Army missed its April recruiting goal and was 10 percent behind its year-to-date target, officials said. An internal forecast indicated the active-duty Army and part-time Army Reserve and Army National Guard also will miss their May goals.
The active-duty Army, striving to attract 80,000 recruits in the 2005 fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, has now missed its recruiting targets for three straight months.
The Marines also missed their goal for signing up new recruits in April for the fourth straight month, said Marine Corps Recruiting Command spokesman Maj. David Griesmer. He said 2,711 recruits signed contracts in April to begin serving within a year, but the Marines now trailed their year-to-date goal by 2 percent.
Griesmer added that the Marines were optimistic about meeting their goal of signing up 38,195 Marines in fiscal 2005.
Officials said the Navy and Air Force were meeting their recruiting targets.
‘SIGNIFICANT RECRUITING NUMBERS’
The active-duty Army has not missed an annual recruiting goal since 1999.
“The Army is expected to make significant recruiting numbers through the summer months as it has traditionally done, and we remain cautiously optimistic that we’ll meet our overall goal by the end of the fiscal year,” said Col. Joe Curtin, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon.
Officials did not release exact recruiting figures for April, but said the Army Reserve also came up short. They said Army National Guard figures were not completed, but expected a shortfall there as well. The Army National Guard has missed every monthly recruiting goal to date in fiscal 2005.
Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said the issues affecting recruiting efforts were the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and improving civilian job opportunities. Smith said the Army has boosted the number of recruiters across the country and expanded financial incentives for enlistment.
The Army has begun an advertising campaign seeking to persuade parents and other adults who influence the decisions of young people about the importance of serving the country.
The Marines have not missed an annual goal for signing up new recruits since 1995.
“It’s true there’s a war on. It’s true the economy is improving,” Griesmer said. “Sure, it’s challenging. But we’re out there looking for warriors. And we’re not going to lower our standards.”
The Iraq war marks the first test of the all-volunteer military in a protracted wartime environment. Some defense analysts have argued the United States may be forced to consider reviving the draft, abolished in 1973, if the military cannot attract sufficient numbers of volunteers.
But Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last week a draft was not needed, adding: “I think the only people who could conceivably be talking about a draft are people who are speaking from pinnacles of near-perfect ignorance.”