10/01/2005: Temporary dip, or symptom of deeper damage?
Only time will tell, but it's clear that its getting much tougher to recruit the troops that it needs:
WASHINGTON - The Army is closing the books on one of the leanest recruiting years since it became an all-volunteer service three decades ago, missing its enlistment target by the largest margin since 1979 and raising questions about its plans for growth.Over at Main and Central, Jo Fish adds a few insights from his time as a recruiter in the Navy:
Many in Congress believe the Army needs to get bigger — perhaps by 50,000 soldiers over its current 1 million — in order to meet its many overseas commitments, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army already is on a path to add 30,000 soldiers, but even that will be hard to achieve if recruiters cannot persuade more to join the service.
Officials insist the slump is not a crisis.
Michael O'Hanlon, a defense analyst at the Brookings Institution think tank, said the recruiting shortfall this year does not matter greatly — for now.
"The bad news is that any shortfall shows how hard it would be to increase the Army's size by 50,000 or more as many of us think appropriate," O'Hanlon said. "We appear to have waited too long to try."
Well here we are on the last day of the fiscal year. Back when I had a short stint as a recruiter, it was always amusing to watch (ahem) another service which shall remain unidentified, literally bring in warm bodies to the AFEES station (AFEES, the Armed Forces Entrance and Examining Stations are now called MEPS, Military Entrance Processing Stations, I believe) to get a physical, an ASVAB and an interview, so they could be counted on the 30th of September as "recruits". If they didn't pop positive on the urinalysis for drugs or diabetes, they would find themselves shipped off to basic training within 18 to 24 hours. At that point if they were booted out, and given a free bus ride home, it didn't matter to the recruiter or that services recruiting command, they were counted as "accessions" and the "goal" was met. Needless to say, on the 28th, 29th, and 30th of September it got pretty busy around the AFEES, I always tried to get my officer candidates through their physicals before mid-September, I knew what was coming. It was not a pretty picture. It was all about making numbers.
Which brings up that question, with the lowered real accessions i.e. those who actually make it through Basic Training (and I notice that they Army is not releasing that number, thank you very much), and the growing demands for soldiers in Iraq, as well as other global committments, is anyone else wondering how long until those dreaded words "Mandatory National Service" rear their ugly head? Because unlike the budget, where the administration chooses to keep handing out IOU's in exchange for services rendered, they can't just fabricate warm bodies to fill the ranks of the military.
Len on 10.01.05 @ 07:55 PM CST