Hear Jon Carry
WASHINGTON (AFP) Mar 09, 2005
The US Army will have a tough time meeting recruiting goals this year and next, but it is not considering lowering its standards to fill the ranks, army leaders said Wednesday.
The war in Iraq and an improving economy have combined to bedevil recruiters at a time when the army is trying to increase the size of the force, defense officials have said.
"I am personally concerned about recruiting, and I think recruiting this year is going to be tough (because of) our increased goals. And in 2006, it is going to be even tougher," said General Peter Schoomaker, the army's chief of staff.
The army's active force is six percent behind its recruiting goal for the fiscal year so far, the army reserve is 10 percent behind, and the national guard is 26 percent behind, said Army Secretary Francis Harvey.
Last week, the army reported that in February the active force fell short of its monthly recruiting goal for the first time in five years.
"I don't think we're in crisis, but we're concerned about it," Harvey told a Senate subcommittee.
The army has responded by adding to its force of recruiters and offering prospects for bigger bonuses and other incentives to join.
Asked whether the army was considering lowering its standards as a way to bring in more recruits, Schoomaker said: "We are not considering it, and we have not done it."
"Now, we are bumping up against our standard, but we have not crossed the line on our standards," he told the senators. "I'd rather go short than lower the standards we have."
The army's goal is to recruit 80,000 new soldiers this year, up from 77,000 last year and 68,000 the year before.
On the positive side, Harvey said the army was on track to meet its retention goals for the year.