2005 May 15 Sunday
US Army Recruiting Shortfalls Are Growing

Lowered standards, increased financial incentives, increased recruiter staffs, and improprieties in recruitment can get only so much milk (sweet or sour) from Bessie the recruiting cow. Opposition to the war in Iraq increasingly takes the form of young men who decide they don't want to risk their lives to fight for George W. Bush and the neoconservatives.

The U.S. Army missed its April recruiting goal by a whopping 42 percent and the Army Reserve fell short by 37 percent, officials said on Tuesday, showing the depth of the military's wartime recruiting woes.

Hard to fight a war without soldiers. More robots are needed.

The gap for April is part of a trend toward larger shortfalls

In March the Army had hoped to sign up 6,800 recruits but fell 32 percent short. That was slightly worse than in February, when a goal of 7,050 was missed by 27 percent.

The Marine Corps are coming up short on recruitment as well.

Recruiters missed their contracting goal for April, marking the fourth month in a row the Corps has fallen short.

The Corps missed its April mission by 260 contracts, meeting 91 percent of its goal to enlist 2,971 recruits, according to Maj. Dave Griesmer, a spokesman for Recruiting Command in Quantico Va.

The US Army will hold a 1 day recruiting halt on May 20 in response to complaints about recruiter excesses.

In Houston, a recruiter allegedly threatened to have a wavering would-be recruit arrested if he backed out, according to Army officials who spoke on condition of anonymity. The recruiter has no such authority.

Officials confirmed a second inquiry in Colorado, pointing to news reports about recruiters who allegedly offered information on fake diplomas and ways to get around drug tests and physical fitness requirements.

Recruiters describe systematic circumvention of recruiting rules.

Two hundred miles away, in northern Ohio, another recruiter said the incident hardly surprised him. He has been bending or breaking enlistment rules for months, he said, hiding police records and medical histories of potential recruits. His commanders have encouraged such deception, he said, because they know there is no other way to meet the Army's recruitment quotas.

"The problem is that no one wants to join," the recruiter said. "We have to play fast and loose with the rules just to get by."

In 2004 nearly one in five Army recruiters were involved in substantiated cases of what the Army calls recruitment improprieties. Those were the substantiated cases. What percentage of real violations of recruiting rules are even caught? Half? A tenth?

Check out the rising rate of recruitment improprieties.

Army Recruiting Command spokesman Douglas Smith said the Army is investigating 480 allegations of improper conduct by Army recruiters in fiscal 2005, which began Oct. 1. The Army looked into 473 such allegations in all of 2000, 643 in 2001, 745 in 2002, 955 in 2003 and 957 in 2004, Smith said.

Recruiter false promises, whether of special training or of being able to avoid going to Iraq, seem most likely to be reported. But when recruiters help recruits cheat on entrance qualifications my guess is few of those cases are caught. So the reported allegations are likely the tip of the iceberg.

The shortfalls are even worse than they appear because the US Army has lowered standards and increased financial incentives for enlistment over the last couple of years. The lowering of standards is causing problems out in the field.

The less qualified people cause a lot more problems for officers and NCOs. More time has to be spent on training and supervising these people, and there are more disciplinary problems as well. The standards have been creeping downward for the last two years, and the complaints about the results are starting to come in from the field.

Even the lowered standards are still high enough that recruiters have to help recruits cheat to pass tests.

Financial incentives for enlistment have been increased substantially.

Without patriotism to rely on, the military has continued to increase the financial incentives. This week it announced that new recruits could get up to $US20,000 ($A26,100) in bonuses for signing on.

It is also doing everything it can to make itself more attractive. It halved the time recruits have to sign up for active duty.

And it is offering up to $US70,000 towards a university degree, or repayment of student loans up to $US65,000, plus all-important health and dental care for recruits and their families.

The recruiting problem looks set to worsen. Standards can only be lowered so far. Financial incentives might work but will make the Iraq war even more expensive. The Army and Marines should remember Ben Franklin and make necessity the mother of invention. This means the US military should embrace automation with a vengeance.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 May 15 06:15 AM  MidEast Iraq Military Needs

gcochran said at May 15, 2005 9:16 AM:

There is a simpler and more economical solution.

Randall Parker said at May 15, 2005 9:33 AM:


If enlistment rates drop low enough the US might even withdraw from Iraq simply due to lack of soldiers to deploy there. But my guess is that there will just be a decrease in the number of US troops deployed. Maybe US forces will decline to 100,000 as the Bush Administration proclaims progerss in the war allow the draw down.

I wonder how this is going to play out. Maybe the 2006 election will bring in an anti-war Democratic Party majority.

GUYK said at May 15, 2005 10:38 AM:

Randall-- don't bet your life's savings on an anti-war democrat winning the White House next time. First of all, by then there will not be much of a war in Iraq. And. even during the uproar over Vietnam there was not enough support to elect an anti-war democrat. Instead we got Tricky Dick, a republican without scrupples. What we may well get is some more anti-war democrats in the house and senate in 2006. The problem with anti-war democrats is that the majority are also anti-military and far left democrats and as such are more obstructionists than anything. Show me a democrat with some valid ideas about how to get us out of Iraq without leaving a political vacuum and I'll show you a democrat that can be elected. I have not heard of one, yet.

I am not all that worried about the recruiting problems. Recruiters have always been accused of being liars and cheaters-its part of the recruitment game. I also am not too concerned about missing the recruiting goals. It has happened in the past and will happen again. The chance of having to dodge bullits is not the only reason recruitment can falter. An improving economy and better civilian job opportunities also can play a big role. I worry more about reenlistment stats. Getting qualified people and training them is always a big problem. However, keeping the qualified people in the career force may be a bigger problem, especially in the Guard and Reserve units who have been deployed and redeployed.

A robot grunt serves well in Sci-Fi and maybe would be the answer in some combat roles in real life. But I just can't see a robot on block patrol and manning checkpoints.

I would like to share a bit of wisdom attributed to John Stuart Mill -

"War is an ugly thing,but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Are we as a society becoming so morally and patriotically corrupt that we will demand robots to fight for our freedom and the freedom of our allies? If so and Mill is correct than the robots will be the better men.

Randall Parker said at May 15, 2005 10:52 AM:


If people do not enlist in the first place they obviously can't reenlist.

The failure to meet recruiting goals in the late 1990s was not a problem because the US military wasn't doing all that much. Now it is scraping really hard to get enough people to go to Iraq and it is already at an unsustainable level of deployment. Put recruiting shortfalls on top of this situation and suddenly every less recruit is one less person going to Iraq.

PacRim Jim said at May 15, 2005 11:02 AM:

Upon completion of a four-year term, automatic U.S. citizenship for qualified alien applicants and their immediate families. Must be limits, though, so we don't outsource the military.

GUYK said at May 15, 2005 11:09 AM:

Randall-I suspect that in the near future we will see recruitments increase. Look for the Federal government to cut funding for high schools and colleges who refuse to allow recruiters on campus. Also look for new incentives to enlist or accept a commission. Expect to see more ads on TV for recruiting. And, no doubt that ineffectve recruiters will be fired and replaced with new go-getters.

Randall Parker said at May 15, 2005 11:09 AM:

PacRim Jim,

I'd rather just withdraw from Iraq.

GUYK said at May 15, 2005 11:28 AM:

Pac Rim Jim: I'm not sure but I do believe there is a precedent for this. Many years ago when on active duty I knew several Filipino service members who enlisted in the Phillipines several years after the end of WW II. Maybe my memory fails me but seems that they told me they enlisted in order to become American citizens. I'll have to do some research. In any event, sounds like the best idea yet unless we want to consider annexing Mexico and maybe Cuba. Both appear to be likely sources of recruits.

Ruggendorfer said at May 15, 2005 2:55 PM:

Nice Mill quote, GuyK.
I recall the massive downsizing of the military during the Clinton administration. They claimed to be downsizing the federal government, but what it panned out to was downsizing the military. It helped the economy for a while until the military was actually needed for something. Gosh, lucky for Europe and Canada they don't have to actually, you know, defend themselves. Their militaries are like what you would have after 30 years of Clintonian downsizing. Not enough to defend against an angry crowd of impoverished Angolans.
From my perspective this looks to be a very temporary dip in recruiting. But it's fair warning to any politician who thinks a downsized military can be stretched across several wars at a time. Not possible.

Mark said at May 15, 2005 3:49 PM:

"Are we as a society becoming so morally and patriotically corrupt that we will demand robots to fight for our freedom and the freedom of our allies?"

The US isn't fighting for it's freedom or the freedom of any allies. Unless Iraq is now considered an ally. Even if it was, better a terminated robot than the life of young man.

Randall Parker said at May 15, 2005 4:02 PM:


I agree with Mark: We aren't fighting for freedom in Iraq. Iraq is not our ally. And regardless of whether we are fighting for freedom I'd rather have robots get shot up than have our young men come home in body bags or permanently damaged.

To people who say we should be willing to die for freedom:

Now I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country. (George S. Patton, June, 1944)

(at least I think he really said it - and if he didn't he certainly thought it)

GUYK said at May 15, 2005 5:34 PM:

Randall: I have no doubt this was Patton's quote. I have heard it many times before and even used it myself on occasion when berating a troop for taking unneccessary chances. The idea is to kill-not to get killed. However, without those who are willing to dodge the bullets there would be no freedom for those who are unwilling to take the risk.

Stephen said at May 15, 2005 7:02 PM:

in other news, some senator has set in motion a proposal that women soldiers be withdrawn from combat duty...

Daveg said at May 15, 2005 7:56 PM:

Certainly a country that has nothing for which it is willing to fight is a miserable one. But not being willing to fight for Iraq is not the same as not willing to fight for anything.

If this war was really about something fundamentally important to the US I don't think the Armed forces would have any problem at all recruiting. However, with 57% of the people currently believing the war was not worth the cost, Iraq was obviously not about something that was fundamental to this country.

Jack said at May 15, 2005 9:41 PM:

Some good comments - Patton's quotes certainly most approp - but forgive my indulging in a non-US centric perspective on this.

Central to this issue is the fact that the 'War on Terror' has been sold as a 'just war' - indeed oftentimes sold as central to the future existence of Western Civilization.
As what happens with hindsight - the market, or more appropriately the people who elected GWB, have spoken and they believe that this War is not that important to them and certainly not important enough to sacrifice (or even endanger) their, or the lives of those dear to them.

Now this has transpired within an environment where fear (terror alerts etc.) has been used quite extensively as a weapon by the US Admin to bring people on side, disinformation propaganda and threats even to close allies - the US media should hang its head in shame for its record of self-censorship and being used as a tool over the past four years. This in marketing terms has not engaged people as bringing them any benefits.

Given all this the people have still decided that its a war not worth fighting/dying for - the member nations of the much heralded Coalition certainly have; and that ultimately there is no long-term post-Sadaam, strategic interest in being in Iraq.

So whats next - robots, outsourcing the millitary?

Mark said at May 15, 2005 11:18 PM:

Bush and the Neocons have been somewhat successful at convincing Americans that the War in Iraq can fall under the category of 'War on Terror'. Most Americans now see this as a outright lie, only partisan hacks or the very ignorant are unwilling to concede that this is the case. I don't see why anyone would want to risk their life for a liberal democracy that won't take.

Braddock said at May 16, 2005 4:42 AM:

I agree with the person above who sees this as a short term drop in recruitment. The media has been falsely proclaiming a drop in recruitment for over a year now, and we know that a broken clock is right twice a day.

Prince C. said at May 16, 2005 10:36 AM:

This drop in recruitment is not short term.

Soldiers are actively telling people not to enlist. They are openly disuading them. If you read news reports carefully, you'll see service parents tell their kids to do other things. An NG NCO had a daughter all ready to enlist, bright, college bound. He wrote her to disuade her from enlisting, and if you look at who is being enlisted, it certainly isn't that pool of relatives and friends the Army loves to draw from. They are taking the dead enders, the mentally ill, kids who would have been rejected out of hand in previous years.

This does not bode well for the Bush legacy...

Randall Parker said at May 16, 2005 10:54 AM:


The military admits it has greatly increased financial incentives, lowered standards, and increased the number of recrutiers. In spite of these efforts it has failed to meet recruitment goals for a few months now and the deficit is growing in size.

Do you deny that all this has happened? My source for the US Marine Corps shortfall is the Marine Corps Timse. You want a US Army press release link for a military source?

I think the shortfall will improve a bit this summer as a new batch of kids gets out of high school. But then it will get worse.

Prince C.,

Yes, they are taking lower quality people. Yes, they are becoming more desparate to get people. This is going to become an issue in the debate over Iraq.

From where I stand the Bush legacy already looks pretty bad. An increasing flood of illegal immigrants driving down wages for poor people, an expensive war that is a mistake, bad choices in energy policy with the push for hydrogen instead of solar and batteries, and too many other mistakes.

Invisible Scientist said at May 16, 2005 12:17 PM:

Randall Parker wrote:
"From where I stand the Bush legacy already looks pretty bad. An increasing flood of illegal immigrants driving down wages for poor people, an expensive war that is a mistake, bad choices in energy policy with the push for hydrogen instead of solar and batteries, and too many other mistakes."

What is the worst case scenario as a prognosis of what will happen as a result of all these miscalculated policies?
Or what are the second worst scenarios in 10 or 20 years?

Muldoon said at May 16, 2005 2:43 PM:

I blame Bush for Mexico's overpopulation and poor economy. If Bush had not bailed out Mexico's economy in the 90's we wouldn't have this problem. Also if Bush hadn't put Saddam in office back in the late 70s there wouldn't be all this Iraq mess. Another thing about Bush, he speaks arabic and encourages the jihadis to commit violence. This has got to stop by god.

Braddock said at May 17, 2005 5:19 AM:

Certainly Clinton's nuclear gifts to the Chinese during his terms will keep on bearing dividends for generations to come. But he had to thank the Chinese for all their help in getting him into office. But that is merely water under the bridge. I agree that Bush's hubris in trying to change an entire entrenched way of life for an essentially medieval people was extreme.

gcochran said at May 18, 2005 1:13 PM:

There were no 'nuclear gifts' to China during the Clinton administration. Where do you guys _get_ this shit, anyhow?

Horace said at May 18, 2005 2:13 PM:

Yeah, I remember Clinton paying back some "debts" to the Chinese. Very dangerous business. Lucky the media never picked up on it. I was walking on eggshells for a while afraid somebody more reputable than Drudge or the Washington Times would print something. Heh heh heh. I needn't have worried.

gcochran said at May 18, 2005 2:48 PM:

I guess my old college buddy in X divisionat at Los Alamos isn't cleared to hear this sort of thing - cause he sure never heard of it. He's only responsible for the warheads making up 45% of our arsenal. What would he know? Obviously, any mouth-breaathing redneck knows more. That's democracy for you.

Randall Parker said at May 18, 2005 3:09 PM:


My guess is the gifts-to-China reference is to either A) Hazel O'Leary's declassification of a lot of documents having to do with nuclear weapons, or B) agreements to allow scientists from China to come work in labs (even maybe nuclear labs? I forget) in the United States, or C) Janet Reno's turning down wiretap requests on that Chinese American guy at Los Alamos. I recall back then reading all sorts of accusations about the Clinton Administration being lax on security and making it easy for the Chinese to spy and steal nuclear secrets.

Braddock said at May 19, 2005 4:22 AM:

Bill Gertz wrote a few very well documented books on the subject. Naturally for some people if something does not make CNN 24 hours a day for two weeks consecutively, it never happened. Blumenthal's glue sniffers. :^)

gcochran said at May 19, 2005 7:38 AM:

Bill Gertz doesn't know shit about it. Oh, I remember what he said, but it was untrue.
Look, the Chinese had a successful hydrogen bomb test back in 1967. Tell me, what advanced wrinkle in priamry or secondary design is supposed to have been 'given' to China during the Clinton administration? Espionage is always possible, but nobody 'gave' anyone anything. I hated Clinton as much as anyone - possibly more than anyone, actually - but not to the point of lying just to make him look bad. I guess I'm not a true team player.

Hazel O'Leary was a fool (and that's putting it mildly), but since no politican seems to understand the importance of the weapon shops, appointing fools as head of DOE (and sometimes the labs themselves) is more common that not. In the most recent stupidity, Bush appointed Pete Nanos, who managed to close Los Alamos for seven months because A. they couldn't find some nonexistent classified disks (the serial numbers had been issued,, but not the disks) and B. one intern had managed to get a retinal burn because of carelessness in the lab.
Now they're more serious about safety.. Why, jsut the other day, they had the entire lab atend a multi-hour high-volytage safety class - of course that manes people in theory divison, secretaries, janitors, all of the 90% that will never need to know this..

gcochran said at May 19, 2005 7:54 AM:

Now if you're talking about the Chinese getting some information about the W-88 design, that happened all right - in 1985, probably somewhere in Lockheed, rather than Los Alamos. Just to make the point perfectly clear, Biill Clinton wasn't President in 1985. Certainly Chinese espionage efforts cntinued, and I'm sure that the Us does a piss-poor job at countering them. I'm sure that the Clinton Admnistration was profoundly ignorant, disorganized, excitable, and reflexively covererd up embarrassing facts. And the Sun rose in the east.

No Administration 'gave' China nuclear secrets. And of course there are no such secrets, in the larger sense: the laws of physics are not secret.

Braddock said at May 19, 2005 9:06 AM:

Just to make it clear, Blumethal's glue sniffers never read any of Bill Gertz' books. But they sure are experts. About everything. Even things they know nothing about.

bernard mbugua said at July 30, 2005 4:53 AM:

am a kenyan, who is much interested in joining the American millitary and to serve it to my best. will you please consider my request and if possible direct me into the right direction. i will highly appreciate that as a way of increasing the recruitment. am a university student aged 22 years.

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