Army Secretary Noel Harvey and vice chief of staff Gen. Richard Cody said Monday that the Army was using looser Defense Department rules that permitted it to sign up more high school dropouts and people who score lower on mental-qualification tests, but they denied that this meant it was lowering standards.…The Army has a recruiting shortfall of 6,000 to 8,000 soldiers over the past 12 months. It hasn’t fallen so short of its annual goal since 1979, several years after the Vietnam war.…The problem, Harvey said, is “a combination of three factors: a good economy, the war in Iraq and parents reluctant to see their sons and daughters enlist” because of the war.
The move comes on the heels of a free iTunes offer by the National Guard, debates about military recruitment in high schools, legislation to raise the age limit for active-duty recruits from 35 to 42, recruiters talking to Katrina evacuees, and the appearance of a Marines advertisement on CraigsList.
Rather than putting the focus on broadening the pool of new enlistees, the administration would be better off spending their time developing a clear and reasonable exit strategy. Such a plan might be the most effective recruitment tool of all.