Army and National Guard recruitment remains a numbers game
October 17, 2009 12:49 AM   Subscribe

As the Obama administration debates strategy for the war in Afghanistan, the U.S. Department of Defense recently announced it had met its 2009 recruitment goals, but Fred Kaplan of Slate sees it differently.

As Congressionally mandated period end strength for the National Guard and Air National Guard comes down, recruiting goals for the U.S. reserves have actually dropped sharply. Yet, as of October 14,
"the Army had more than 32,300 people in its delayed entry pool — people who have enlisted but have not shipped to basic training. That number is more than 43 percent of the annual recruiting goal, the highest it has been since 2004."
Bill Carr, under secretary of defense for military personnel policy, cited the weakness in the U.S. economy, and improved recruitment programs and bonuses as key reasons for the 2009 recruiting results.
"High-quality recruits are more expensive to recruit, Carr noted.
Recruit quality

A direct correlation exists between the economy and recruit quality, economists say. John Warner and Curtis Simon of Clemson University have estimated that a 10 percent increase in the unemployment rate leads to a 3 percent to 4 percent increase in high-quality enlistment. Another study has suggested a 5 percent increase, Warner said.

In addition, many studies show that high education levels, AFQT scores and experience all correlate to productivity and flexibility in service. Experts say recruits with high school diplomas are much more likely to finish their first terms of service and perform higher-quality work.

Carr said the improvements were particularly remarkable given the increasing difficulty in finding qualified candidates for accession, with nearly three-quarters of today’s high school graduates going on to college, compared to 50 percent in the 1980s, Carr said.

Moreover, in the 1980s, one in 20 17-to-24-year-olds were considered obese by Centers for Disease Control standards; today, the ratio is one in four.

“That creates a tighter constraint as you seek to find fully qualified recruits,” Carr said, adding that the military has to attract more than 15 percent of qualified young Americans in order to maintain the force."
posted by paulsc (13 comments total)
Kaplan's article seems rather disingenuous... "The Army met their recruiting quota this year - BUT ONLY BECAUSE IT WAS LOWER THAN LAST YEAR" and "The Army used to have lower standards for recruits (but raised them to their original level this year)" seem to be standalone points that are thrown in the article for... whatever reason but are implied by the author to portend "trouble with the numbers."

The trouble with comparing reenlistments and recruitments lies in these two facts: those are completely different groups of soldiers - and even if one reenlistment meant one fewer recruitment needed, you don't know how long the recruitment contract is for, nor the reenlistment contract. The only way to compare end strengths of the Army across years is to... compare the end strength numbers released by the Army. Looking at reenlistments vs. recruitments just doesn't give you enough data.

Also, the cute "I'm not saying there's a problem" at the end of the article is a nice touch.
posted by squorch at 1:01 AM on October 17, 2009 [2 favorites]

Kind of a non-issue, as the military's drawdowns in Iraq are probably in excess of its increases in Afghanistan. I wouldn't be surprised if re-enlistment rates are also a bit higher, as the perceived risk of conflict and long deployments is probably going down somewhat.

The military can afford to have semi-functional standards again, fortunately. I was hearing some real horror stories about a few of the recent recruits awhile back. Ultimately, not having suitable standards is a danger to all concerned.
posted by markkraft at 4:38 AM on October 17, 2009

You mean the military didn't give us an honest reporting of the facts?
posted by Joe Beese at 5:05 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Personally, as a soldier who got recalled during FY2009, I'd be a smidgen more impressed by this spectacular recruiting achievement if the military wasn't also simultaneously calling up soldiers from the Individual Ready Reserve to augment forces deploying to Afghanistan and Iraq.

I left active duty almost a year and a half ago, and yet today I'm overseas with a random national guard unit.....but we're exceeding recruiting goals. Yeah, good for us.
posted by lullaby at 6:18 AM on October 17, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seems like a clever way to meet the hawks expectations while keeping costs down and not acutually expanding what is already an enormous military, except that it started before Obama was in office.
posted by furtive at 7:20 AM on October 17, 2009

As Kaplan notes in the second link, it actually started back during the Reagan Administration.
posted by AdamCSnider at 8:05 AM on October 17, 2009

Does that mean they'll stop playing those god awful "Join the ____" commercials at the movies now?
posted by schwa at 8:38 AM on October 17, 2009

Lullaby, thank you for your service, although your call up from IRR is regrettable, and I understand your frustration. If you can discuss it, were you recalled based on some esoteric MOS, or unique experience base that the Army would have particular trouble obtaining from new recruits?
posted by paulsc at 8:54 AM on October 17, 2009

I guess it matches how we're lowering "troop" levels by replacing them with mercenaries.

If this trend continues, maybe the Afghanis can just play dead instead of us killing them.
posted by Joe Beese at 10:10 AM on October 17, 2009

If this trend continues, maybe the Afghanis can just play dead instead of us killing them.

I don't see why we don't just buy these people off. We're spending five times their GDP. We could afford to pay everyone twice their per-capita GDP and still come out ahead.
posted by delmoi at 10:39 AM on October 17, 2009

If you can discuss it, were you recalled based on some esoteric MOS, or unique experience base that the Army would have particular trouble obtaining from new recruits?

Nah. I'm a medic, and the Army trains about 8000 new medics every year. My particular experience is just a few previous deployments, but that's hardly unique.

That's not really how the IRR operates, in my experience. It's notoriously a clusterfuck, even though it's been over five years since the first round of mobilizations for the, uh, war on terror. If Army Human Resources Command came out tomorrow and announced that they'd been selecting soldiers to call up by picking names out of a hat, I wouldn't be very surprised.

Anyway, the majority of the soldiers who reported at the same time as me were re-classed Civil Affairs, so their original MOSes were irrelevant. (Incidentally, almost none of the combat arms guys in my group retained their original MOS.) The Army seems to have just needed the bodies, both enlisted and officers, to fill Civil Affairs slots and they looked to the IRR for that.
posted by lullaby at 1:39 PM on October 17, 2009

As the Obama administration debates strategy for [George Bush's] war in Afghanistan...
posted by neuron at 4:44 PM on October 17, 2009

Happily, the army is ready to meet this new irradiated super baby threat.
posted by pompomtom at 5:45 PM on October 18, 2009

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