WASHINGTON – The Army fell short of its recruiting goal in May, the fourth consecutive monthly shortfall, but the Marine Corps was on target despite continuing publicity about U.S. combat casualties in Iraq.
The Pentagon on Friday released May recruiting figures for all four services. Most attention has been on the recruiting struggles of the Army and Marines, which bear most of the combat casualties in Iraq (search) and Afghanistan (search) and have found young Americans and their parents increasingly wary of joining the land combat services.
The Army, which is by far the largest of the four services, achieved 75 percent of its May goal of recruiting 6,700. The Army National Guard got 71 percent of its goal of 5,791, and the Army Reserve got 82 percent of its goal of 2,759.
The Marine Corps slightly exceeded its goal, getting 61 more recruits than the 1,843 it had set as May's goal. The Navy reached 100 percent of its goal of 1,939, and the Air Force was at 101 percent of its goal of 1,037.
The Air Force and Navy, which play much smaller roles in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars than the Army and Marine Corps, have not had any recent recruiting problems.
Also, the Pentagon's newly released figures showed that although the Army is having trouble getting young people to join, it is doing much better at getting those already in uniform to re-enlist. So far this budget year, which began last Oct. 1, the active-duty Army has met 103 percent of its re-enlistment goal; the National Guard is at 103 percent of its goal and the Army Reserve has met 104 percent of its goal, the Pentagon said.
In a separate statement accompanying the release of the military-wide recruiting statistics, the Army said it remains "cautiously optimistic" of meeting its goal of recruiting 80,000 people in the active Army this year. It did not express the same optimism for the National Guard and Reserve, which it called "a concern to us."
The National Guard has achieved only 76 percent of the recruits it had hoped to have by this time of the year, and the Reserve has 80 percent. The active-duty Army has 83 percent of what it planned through May 30, meaning it would have to vastly exceed its summer-month goals in order to reach the full-year target.
Bryan Whitman, a senior spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld (search), said the Pentagon does not believe it faces a recruiting crisis and remains convinced that an all-volunteer force is viable.
"I see no indication of anybody taking under consideration the draft," Whitman said.
The general in charge of Army recruiting said Thursday that the American public will determine whether the military returns to conscription.
"The issue isn't one of whether or not we will be forced into a draft," said Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, commander of Army Recruiting Command. "I think the issue is whether people will get behind and stand behind the all-volunteer force concept that has served us quite well for 32 years."