Aided by a bleak job market, the US military met all of its recruitment goals in the past year for the first time since it became an all-volunteer force in 1973, the Pentagon said yesterday.
Military services have been stretched thin by conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, giving added weight to recruitment efforts as President Obama considers sending another 40 000 US troops to Afghanistan next year.
The United States already has 67 000 troops in Afghanistan and about 119 000 in Iraq.
Pentagon officials said recruitment gains were fuelled by the deepest US recession since the Great Depression and an unemployment rate nearing 10 %.
“For the first time since the advent of the all-volunteer force, all of the military components, active and reserve, met their number as well as their quality goals,” said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy.
The US Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force sent a total of about 169 000 active duty recruits to training in the 2009 fiscal year that ended on September 30, beating their 164 000-member goal, the Pentagon said.
National Guard and reserve forces sent about 128 000 recruits to training, beating their goal.
Carr said rising private sector unemployment was a force behind the increase in military recruitment but was not the only factor that “allowed us to be, for much of the year, in a very favourable position.”
Curtis Gilroy, a senior Pentagon official, said a 10 % increase in the national unemployment rate generally translates into a 4 % to 6 % “improvement in high-quality Army enlistments.”
Recruitment does not come cheap. On average, the military spends between $9000 (R65 000) and $10 000 (R72 000) per recruit, a figure that includes the high cost of advertising and of employing thousands of recruiters across the country, Carr said.
The Army spends far more, about $22 000 (R159 000) per recruit.
Pic: US troops