Army recruiters fall short of goals for March,
Will revise pitch to appeal to parents' sense of patriotism
WASHINGTON -- The Army expects to miss its recruiting goals this month and next, and is working on a revised sales pitch appealing to the patriotism of parents, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey said yesterday.
Whether that boosts enlistment numbers or not, Harvey said, he sees no chance of a military draft.
''The 'd' word is the farthest thing from my mind," the former defense company executive told a Pentagon news conference, his first since becoming the Army's top civilian official last November.
Because of the strains on military manpower caused by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, some in Congress have raised the possibility of reinstating the draft, although there is a strong consensus against it among Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the military chiefs.
This is the first time the United States has been in a sustained period of combat since the all-volunteer force was introduced in 1973. The Air Force and Navy, which have relatively smaller roles in Iraq and Afghanistan, have no recruiting problems, but the Army and Marines are hard pressed.
The Army missed its recruiting goal for February by 27 percent -- the first time it missed a monthly goal since May 2000. The last time it missed its full-year goal was 1999.
As of Feb. 28 the Army was 6 percent below the number of recruits it had expected to sign up at that point in the recruiting year, the Army Reserve was 10 percent off, and the Army National Guard was 25 percent off.
The Army is forecasting that all three elements -- active, Guard, and Reserve -- will fall short of their targets for March and April. That means they will have to make up the lost ground this summer, traditionally the best recruiting season, to meet their full-year goals.
''I'm clearly not going to give up," Harvey said. ''At this stage we still have six months to go" before the recruiting year ends Sept. 30. ''I've challenged our human resource people to get as innovative as they can. And even as we speak, we've got a number of new ideas."
One of the new approaches is designed to persuade more parents to steer their children to the Army.
''We're going to appeal to patriotism," he said.
That might be done through a new advertising campaign, he said. He also is encouraging more members of Congress, as well as senior Army leaders and Army boosters, to spend time in local communities touting the benefits of military service.
The Army also has increased the number of recruiters on the street by 33 percent and is offering larger sign-up bonuses. Last week the Army announced that the National Guard and Reserve were raising the maximum age for recruits from 34 to 39 to expand the pool of potential enlistees.
The regular Army could not raise the maximum age without congressional approval.
Some have suggested the Army could ease its recruiting crunch if the Pentagon altered its ''Don't Ask/ Don't Tell" policy that permits homosexual men and women to serve only if they keep their sexual orientation to themselves. But Harvey said he opposes changing the policy.
''I don't see any need to change it," he said.
In a related matter, the Army said more people in the Individual Ready Reserve, or IRR -- those no longer in uniform and not obligated to train -- will hear from the Army in the weeks ahead.
The Army has increased the number of IRR soldiers it plans to put on active duty, from the 4,402 announced last summer to 4,653.
Of those given mobilization orders, 370 have failed to report for duty, according to Lieutenant Colonel Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman.
An additional 2,229 have requested exemptions or delays in their reporting dates.