Personnel Statistics Minus One
For the first time since the inception of the all-volunteer military in 1973, the Pentagon succeeded in surpassing the numerical goals it set for the recruiting commands in each of the services. This year’s unexpected run-away winner was the active Army, which recruited more than 3,000 civilians above the goal of 65,000 needed to fill the ranks.
The main influence on the decision to sign-up in 2009 is quite apparent: economics. From corporations to small business and “independent contractors,” the number of people losing their jobs and seeking employment rose dramatically each week. By the end of September, 9.8 percent of the U.S. population was unemployed and looking for a job. And waiting for many of these job-seekers was the Pentagon.
For many years, military recruiters had encountered resistance from parents of potential recruits to any attempt to contact the prospective enlistee. The implosion of the U.S. economy changed that calculus even though a significant contributing cause for the faltering economy was the billions of dollars being spent to fight two wars – in Iraq and in Afghanistan-Pakistan.
To mine what professional recruiters regard as a golden opportunity to boost numbers willing to sign on the dotted line, during FY2009 the services put more recruiters on the street to participate in job fairs at high schools and even in junior colleges, to open and staff recruiting offices in small towns with high unemployment, and to push post-service options such as special training that can be used in civilian occupations or pay for college tuition.
Not too long ago, the military had to pay not only re-enlistment bonuses to retain experienced soldiers (e.g., Special Forces) but also bribe prospective recruits with signing bonuses that often totaled $20,000 or more. Signing “bonuses” for 40 percent of high school graduates who enlisted in FY2009 averaged $14,000, up $2,000 more than in FY2008.
Quality in terms of the percentage of recruits with high school diplomas exceeded the Pentagon’s benchmark as did the new recruits who scored above the minimum level for the Armed Forces Qualification Test. Not everything was rosy, however. Obesity has become a significant barrier to aspiring recruits.
The break-out for new accessions by service components for FY2009 is:
Army: 108 percent (70,045 actual vs. 65,000 goal)
Navy: 100 percent (35,527 actual vs. 35,500 goal)
Marine Corps: 100 percent (31,413 actual vs. 31,400 goal)
Air Force: 100 percent (31,983 actual vs. 31,980 goal)
Army National Guard: 100 percent (56,071 actual vs. 56, 000 goal)
Army Reserve: 105 percent (36,189 actual vs. 34,598 goal)
Navy Reserve: 101 percent (7,793 actual vs. 7,743 goal)
Marine Corps Reserve: 122 percent (8,805 actual vs. 7,194 goal)
Air National Guard: 106 percent (10,075 actual vs. 9,500 goal)
Air Force Reserve: 109 percent (8,604 actual vs. 7,863 goal)
Average expenditure per recruit who signed with the military was $10,000.
For FY 2010, the military recruitment commands will reduce their $5 billion budget by 11 percent.
What would be an interesting future comparative statistic is how many of the new recruits die in Iraq and Afghanistan. That statistic was not mentioned at all.