Monday, January 30, 2006

Reader Mailbag - The Army's Recruitment Numbers

The Army reported meeting its recruting goals for 7 months straight. Last Friday's Candorville lampooned the contention that meeting those goals was tantamount to a vote of confidence in the Presiden'ts Iraq policies. A few readers have e-mailed to ask a couple questions in response: a) Where did I get my facts, and b) why don't I go #@% myself. The answer to the latter is, it's not physically possible. If it were, nobody would ever get any work done. The answer to the former is best summed up by this newsgroup exchange I had with a poster at rec.arts.comics.strips (cleaned up the grammar just a bit):

Detox wrote:
(Regarding Friday's comic strip)

Sorry Darrin. I don't believe that to be the case.

The Army's recruiting goal this year is 80,000. Same as last year.

The Army met its June goal only by lowering it from 6650 to 5650.

They went on to miss their annual goal by at least 6600 soldiers.

"Fiscal 2005 marked the first time the Army fell short of an annual recruiting goal since 1999 and was one of its poorest recruiting performances since the birth of the all-volunteer military in 1973
during the tumult of the Vietnam War era."

Detox wrote:
Additionally, the entire recruiting story was a big nothing last year. If you look at total military recruiting, the shortfall was pretty minimal. The Corps exceeded expectations and I'm pretty sure the Air Force and Navy did as well.

If you look at this graphic from Stars & Stripes, you'll notice that recruiting goals for the other branches are significantly lower than those for the Army. And not to disparge the Air Force or the Navy, but in this battle, neither branch faces the conditions faced by the Army or Marines. Marine recruitment met its targets, but the story was about Army recruitment, not the entire military. The Army National Guard fell even shorter.

This is troubling because of the increased signing bonuses and other lengths the Army went through to expand their pool of recruits.

"After missing its recruitment goal this year by nearly 7,000 troops, the widest margin since 1979, the Army has announced a revision of recruitment tactics. It is now accepting a greater number of less qualified applicants, doubling the amount of so-called Category 4 troops, those men and women who score low in the aptitude tests from 2 percent of the class to 4 percent."
-General Barry McCaffrey

Detox wrote:
Also, all of the military did very well in terms of re-enlistments for FY2005. In the case of the Army, re-enlistments almost covered the shortfall in new recruits.'s the big rates were strongest among units that had served in Iraq.

That's re-enlistments. Stop-loss programs and the beratement many get when they decide to leave aside, here's a good article about why some soldiers re-enlist. It may have less to do with support for Bush's policies than with the comeraderie abroad and the respect they receive when they come back home.

Re-enlistments are entirely different than new enlistments. I'd like to see someone do a study examining whether the re-enlistees are mostly career military who plan on staying in the army long enough to earn a pension, or whether they're mostly the short-timers who serve 6 years or so and then go on to a civilian career. My guess is it would be the former.

Detox wrote:
Curiously, there seemed to be more stories about the shortfall in new recruits than there were about the increasing retention rates.

The Army did cut their recruiting goal for May last year, but kept the overall 80,000 goal for the year.

It missed its recruiting goal last year. And the Army lowered its recruiting goals for the first few months of fiscal year 2006 (which is when it reported meeting its goals). They are keeping the 80,000 annual goal, but only hope to meet it by increasing their summer goals, when it may be easier to recruit soldiers.

"Even within the Defense Department, few suggest that the Army has seen its way through the crisis. Instead, what the Army has done is backload the goals for its recruiting year, which runs from October through next September.

For instance, last fiscal year, the Army's October recruiting goal was 6,935 recruits; this year it dropped to 4,700. To make up the difference, the Army will look to sign up more recruits next summer: Last July it sought to bring in 7,450 soldiers; next July it is seeking 10,450, an extra 3,000."

I don't know if missing the goal suggests a widespread lack of support for the President's policies, but I do know it does not suggest the opposite. Which is what that strip was about.