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June 08, 2005

A Recruiting Crisis
Posted by Derek Chollet

I too was worried about today’s news concerning the endemic waste, fraud and abuse in DoD’s procurement programs, but for my money (pun intended), the most deeply disturbing defense news of the day was that for the 4th straight month, the U.S. Army has missed its recruiting goal – and even worse, that comes after it lowered its target!  According to the Army Times, Pentagon officials quietly reduced their goal for May from 8,000 troops to 6,700, yet in fact it only shipped out around 5,000.  Some argue that the Army is on the way to missing its annual recruiting goals for the first time in six years.  And this is for the active duty component -- the Guard and Reserves are having an even harder time.

According to this report:

"The Army also missed its monthly targets in April, March and February -- each month worse than the one before. In February it fell 27 percent short; in March the gap was 31 percent, and in April it was 42 percent.

'It's like having a persistent drought,' said Daniel Goure, a military analyst at the private Lexington Institute. "At some point when you have drought conditions you have to institute water rationing, and that's what you potentially face in the military if it goes on long enough. You would get to a stage where you don't have enough people to staff your organizations.'"

This has huge implications for the future of our military, the current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the viability of our all-volunteer force.  Truth be told, these recruiting problems also make troubles for proposals – argued here at DA and elsewhere – that to avoid breaking the force, we need to add as many as 100,000 new troops.  It’s hard to think seriously about adding more troops when we’re having problems recruiting for the force we’ve got. 

So far, the White House and Pentagon (including many of the top military brass) have handled this issue by denying that there is one – claiming that the problem is being overstated or that they are working on it.  Military experts have told me that this recruiting trouble is a trend they have seen developing over the past few years, not months, and worry that it will only get worse, especially if the situation in Iraq does not improve.  The U.S. Army is about people, and right now, it’s not attracting enough. 


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» Will we have enough troops? from A New America
The truth is, George Bush can't explain why we should be in Iraq. So why should Americans sign up to die there? As long as there's no plan for dealing with Iraq, our military will continue to weaken. [Read More]


Considering an excellent economy and an on-going war, this is not bad. I would be more concerned about retention than recruitment. A recruit is not a soldier, and may not even pass through the basic training.

My contract will expire the end of this year and I have not make up my mind if I want to continue or not. I have 7 years, 2 in a war zones, experience that a young recruit will not have. It is my opinion that Rumsfeld broke the Army three years back when he refuse to add two divisions to the Army.

Dunno about that, Minh-Duc. A division is something that takes time to build, and I doubt they would have been useful in time for Iraq- procuring the equipment and training the people takes time and money, and we've already got a huge defecit, a lot of which is due to war expenses.

IMO, Clinton drew us down too far, and doing some serious thinking about what should replace those cuts, instead of just reconstituting what existed before is a good idea.

-- "It’s hard to think seriously about adding more troops when we’re having problems recruiting for the force we’ve got." -- Derek

Exactly. This means we have to consider some form of military draft, or cut back on our foreign policy goals, or both.

I hope you'll address this problem in a later post, Derek. Thanks.


We had an all voluteer Army of 18 divisions under Reagan. We now have 10 divisions. It is doable, but it take time to build up. Having more troops actually will improve retention. I would definitely stay if the deployments are farther apart. I can handle Iraq, but not every other year.

Concerning the military budget, a lot of it is wasteful spending. My unit was issued extremely expensive equipments that we did not want or need. A little more control on what actually spent can solve that problem.

The sons, daughters, nieces and nephews and grandchildren of all member of Congress and all senior administration officials should be subject to a mandatory draft (anyone who cannot pass the phsyicial could be a nurse aide at Walter Reed, etc.).

The war in Iraq would end real quick.

Just a thought.

Military recruiting has been a mess for decades.

But political types don't have the moral high ground when criticizing military leadership on the issue.

Congressional offices have received complaints about recruiters for decades and taken as little action as possible. The complaints get forwarded to the Congressional liaison office and the appropriate form letters get written.

Generals and admirals in charge of recruiting (one-stars) haven't passed the probs up the chain of command. So arguably the senior military brass are less aware of the probs in recruiting than Congressional offices.

But we're in a pickle now, so who's to blame for what doesn't fix the problem.

What are the options?

1. Invest more in recruiting (more recruiters)
2. End the Iraq War
3. Provide large signing bonuses
4. Implement conscription

Frankly speaking, I find those who advocate the draft dishonest. Most of them do not really care about the military or people in uniforms, they think that proposing the draft will end the war. It is an underhanded political tactic. A draft will weaken the military.

If you want to end the war, find another method, leave the military alone. I do not want a draft. We professional soldiers do not have time to baby-sit the Kennedy children.

Minh-Duc, do you acknowledge that the Neo Cons used underhanded political tactics to get the Iraq War?

Was the Bush administration or the Neo Con led GOP punished by the voters for using underhanded political tactics to get the Iraq War?

If the voters are rewarding underhanded political tactics by the GOP, you can't blame the Dems for trying underhanded political tactics themselves.

What's this talk about "baby-sitting Kennedy children"?

"If you want to end the war, ... leave the military alone. " Minh-Duc, could you please clarify this? It sounds kinda strange to me.

BTW, I was listing options. I am firmly opposed to conscription on human rights grounds. Also, I don't think it will work.

We had an all voluteer Army of 18 divisions under Reagan. We now have 10 divisions. It is doable, but it take time to build up.--Minh-Duc

If you know how to add eight divisions while fighting the Iraq War (which has become unpopular) you should write your ideas and send 'em up the chain of command.

If the Army and Marine Corps can't maintain troop strength, how are they going to ramp up by 80%.


I think you are getting ahead of yourself. We want an unpoliticized military for obvious reasons. The main discussion here is how to improve our armed services. How to run an effective and efficient military is the the main point - which I agree is in desperate need of improvement. Whether the war is justified or not is another issue that should be kept seperate.

If you think the war is unjustified (which I respectfully disagree), there are other ways of geting your point across without weakening the military by proposing the draft. Historically, professional soldiers have consistently outperformed conscripts. Conscription add bodies to the military but not soldiers. Disgruntled conscripts are liabilities on the battlefield. It is fine if the affluences do not want to serve. I would hate to command a platoon of Paris Hilton.

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