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Nearly all new US Army recruits are receiving a special 20,000-dollar bonus, an official said Monday, amid debate over whether the Pentagon is eroding standards to shore up its stretched ranks.
Out of 6,611 people who enlisted in the Army between the bonus program’s start on July 25 and August 24, a total of 6,264 or 94.8 percent are getting the hefty payout.
In return, the raw recruits must agree to start basic training within 30 days, much quicker than normal Army timelines.
“Practically everyone who’s enlisting now is eligible for this ‘quick-ship bonus’ if they’re willing to ship by the end of September,” said Douglas Smith, spokesman for the US Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The 20,000-dollar bonus, which amounts to more than a year’s salary for most young Army recruits, is due to expire at the end of the US fiscal year on September 30.
New recruits who agree to ship out rapidly into Army service receive 10,000 dollars on completion of their training, then another 10,000 over the course of their initial enlistment.
Following two straight months of enlistment shortfalls, the program helped the US Army exceed its July recruiting goal of 9,750 by about two percent, according to Pentagon statistics.
The rising US death toll in Iraq, and public disquiet about the war, has been blamed for deterring would-be recruits. The Army has already loosened enlistment standards in a bid to meet its recruitment targets.
The Washington Post, which highlighted the program’s success in a report Monday, noted concern that the latest bonus scheme could be attracting recruits more interested in the money than in service to their country.
“To me it signals something that we’ve been seeing already from the Army, a trade-off in terms of quality and quantity,” Cindy Williams, a security analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told the newspaper.
“My sense is that right now, they’re willing to take anybody who is willing to walk in the door and ship by September 30.”
Smith dismissed such concerns.
“Cash enlistment and educational incentives have been part of the recruitment process ever since we switched to an all-volunteer force in 1973,” the recruiting spokesman told AFP.
“There’s usually an array of reasons for enlisting in the Army. Financial incentives are just one, as are a sense of duty to the country along with personal and educational reasons.”