The Washington Post reported Monday in a front-page story that the U.S. Army "is beginning to suffer from manpower strains like those that have dropped the National Guard and Reserves below full strength." -- As a result, "the Army is rushing incoming recruits into training as quickly as it can," for it is aiming to "add 30,000 soldiers by 2009, expanding the active-duty force from 482,000 to 512,000, as it builds 10 to 15 new combat brigades to add to divisions for overseas tours." -- Recruiting is becoming both more difficult and more expensive: "In January, the Army announced a new six-month advertising contract with Leo Burnett USA worth an estimated $100 million. The Army is offering bonuses of as much as $20,000 to enlist on active duty for four years, with special monetary incentives for candidates who have college degrees, sign up for high-priority jobs, or agree to move quickly into training. The Army is also paying more to retain active-duty soldiers, 50 percent of whom now receive reenlistment bonuses, compared with 39 percent in 2003, Army officials said." ...

Nation

National Security

Military

ARMY HAVING DIFFICULTY MEETING GOALS IN RECRUITING
By Ann Scott Tyson

** Fewer Enlistees Are in Pipeline; Many Being Rushed into Service **

Washington Post
February 21, 2005
Page A01

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A40469-2005Feb20.html

The active-duty Army is in danger of failing to meet its recruiting goals, and is beginning to suffer from manpower strains like those that have dropped the National Guard and Reserves below full strength, according to Army figures and interviews with senior officers.

For the first time since 2001, the Army began the fiscal year in October with only 18.4 percent of the year's target of 80,000 active-duty recruits already in the pipeline. That amounts to less than half of last year's figure and falls well below the Army's goal of 25 percent.

Meanwhile, the Army is rushing incoming recruits into training as quickly as it can. Compared with last year, it has cut by 50 percent the average number of days between the time a recruit signs up and enters boot camp. It is adding more than 800 active-duty recruiters to the 5,201 who were on the job last year, as attracting each enlistee requires more effort and monetary incentives.

Driving the manpower crunch is the Army's goal of boosting the number of combat brigades needed to rotate into Iraq and handle other global contingencies. Yet Army officials see worrisome signs that young American men and women -- and their parents -- are growing wary of military service, largely because of the Iraq conflict.

"Very frankly, in a couple of places our recruiting pool is getting soft," said Lt. Gen. Franklin L. Hagenbeck, the Army's personnel chief. "We're hearing things like, 'Well, let's wait and see how this thing settles out in Iraq,' " he said in an interview. "For the active duty for '05 it's going to be tough to meet our goal, but I think we can. I think the telling year for us is going to be '06."

Other senior military officers have voiced similar concerns in recent days. "I anticipate that fiscal year '05 will be very challenging for both active and reserve component recruiting," Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a House Appropriations subcommittee Feb. 17. The Marine Corps fell short of its monthly recruiting quota in January for the first time in nearly a decade.

Because the Army is the main U.S. military ground force, its ability to draw recruits is critical to the nation's preparedness to fight current and future wars. The Army can sustain its ranks through retaining more experienced soldiers -- and indeed retention in 2004 was 107 percent -- but if too few young recruits sign up, the force will begin to age. Moreover, higher retention in the active-duty Army translates into a dwindling stream of recruits for the already troubled Army Guard and Reserve.

Army officials say the challenge is not yet a crisis. As of Jan. 31, the Army tallied 22,246 active-duty recruits for fiscal 2005, exceeding the year-to-date mission by more than 100.

Still, the recruiting difficulties reflect unprecedented demands on today's soldiers that are unlikely to let up soon. Never before has the all-volunteer Army deployed to war zones in such large numbers for multiple, yearlong tours. It is doing so with a total force cut by 300,000 troops -- from 28 active-duty and reserve divisions to 18 -- since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The Army is now working to add 30,000 soldiers by 2009, expanding the active-duty force from 482,000 to 512,000, as it builds 10 to 15 new combat brigades to add to divisions for overseas tours. But cultivating so many fresh recruits without lowering standards is a serious challenge, senior Army leaders say. "If you cut down 300,000 trees, you can do that pretty quick, but now grow 30,000 of them back," Gen. Peter Schoomaker, Army chief of staff, told a House Armed Services committee hearing Feb. 9. "It takes time, as you know, to grow the quality soldier."

Time, however, is what the Army lacks.

Beyond replacing normal turnover each year, officials say the Army must accelerate recruitment to meet an aggressive timeline for filling out the new brigades of 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers each, as well as to expand and reorganize the 33 existing brigades.

Newly trained troops are essentially being rationed out -- a process Army officers call "turning on the faucet" -- a few months before the brigades are to deploy to Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere. The military plans to keep about 120,000 troops in Iraq through 2006.

"The priority fill goes to deploying units to make sure they are at full strength before they go overseas," says Col. Joseph Anderson, who until this month served as chief of staff of the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Ky.

Such demands have led the Army to deplete its reservoir of enlistees in the Delayed Entry Program (DEP). The DEP consists of people who have signed enlistment contracts but opt to delay their entry to training camps for up to a year. DEP numbers fell from 33,249 at the beginning of fiscal 2004 to 14,739 at the start of this fiscal year, according to U.S. Army Recruiting Command statistics.

As a result, while the Army began last year with 45.9 percent of its recruiting goal filled by the pool, this year it started with just 18.4 percent in the pool -- the lowest amount since 2001 and well below the 30 percent average for the past decade. That means the Army must redouble its efforts to meet this year's target.

"Would we like a deeper DEP, a greater number? Of course we would," Hagenbeck said. But despite his anticipation of an even tougher recruiting environment in 2006 -- resulting from an improving economy and public uncertainty over the Iraq war -- he said the overriding need to hasten recruits to units means there are no plans to replenish the DEP this year.

Meanwhile, netting each new recruit is proving more difficult and time-consuming, Hagenbeck said, requiring the Army to put hundreds more active-duty recruiters on the job.

"The youngsters that are joining us are spending more time with the recruiters before they raise their right hand," he said. Today, most prospective enlistees contact the Army via the Internet, he said, asking numerous questions that require more recruiters to answer online and follow up with phone calls.

But few candidates will join up before meeting a recruiter in person and spending significant amounts of time with one, he said. "They ultimately want to see a soldier, a recruiter, and talk to them eyeball to eyeball," he said. As a result, "the recruiter who could go out and recruit two people this week might be consumed with recruiting that one."

The average cost of signing up a recruit is also beginning to rise, from $15,265 in fiscal 2001 to $15,967 in fiscal 2004 -- the result of more recruiters, advertising, and increased enlistment bonuses. In January, the Army announced a new six-month advertising contract with Leo Burnett USA worth an estimated $100 million. The Army is offering bonuses of as much as $20,000 to enlist on active duty for four years, with special monetary incentives for candidates who have college degrees, sign up for high-priority jobs or agree to move quickly into training.

The Army is also paying more to retain active-duty soldiers, 50 percent of whom now receive reenlistment bonuses, compared with 39 percent in 2003, Army officials said.

"We may not get exactly the number of people we want, but we're not sacrificing quality," Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey told a House committee Feb. 9.

The Army is offering higher ranks to enlistees who have spent time in college or junior ROTC, and as a result is bringing in more recruits at ranks above private, or E-1.

Such policies could partly explain a shift in the Army's junior enlisted ranks that has perplexed military analysts. The number of privates (E-1 through E-3) in the active-duty Army has sharply declined from 126,100 in October 2001 to 107,500 in December 2004. Meanwhile, the number of corporals and specialists (E-4) has risen from 95,400 to 115,500.

Another explanation is that the active-duty Army is maintaining its force strength more through retention than recruitment, resulting in a subtle aging of the force -- a trend already evident in the Army Reserve, officials said.