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Army Recruiting Goals in Illinois "Missing the Mark"

January 26, 2009

Chicago, IL – Despite hundreds of millions of dollars spent on advertising and video games to attract potential recruits, a new report finds the U.S. Army is not hitting its recruitment goals nationwide, or in Illinois.

Suzanne Smith, research director with the National Priorities Project, wrote the report.

"Illinois, like other states, like Northeastern states, has tended to have some of the lowest recruitment rates, and those recruitment rates are falling."

The survey also found that only 47 percent of those recruited in Illinois last year were deemed "quality", defined as having high school diplomas and good incoming test scores.

Smith says military research shows that less educated recruits have lower retention rates, which leads to more money being spent on recruiting and training, in what the Pentagon has called an 'unsustainable' Defense Department budget in tough economic times.

"We need to take care of those who have served, and we need to re-think our engagement in military conflict in order that we may have the funds to take care of the people who have served."

Research Director Suzanne Smith says the analysis indicates that the pool of potential quality candidates has likely been largely exhausted because of wars and other military duties, like protecting energy supplies. But Pentagon analysts project a $60 billion increase in the 2010 defense budget, largely tied to requests to increase troop levels.

While supporting America’s ability to defend its interests, Smith says the study suggests it is time for a new game plan to reduce the ever-increasing call for more troops.

"The other thing is to have a new strategy and a new foreign policy using diplomacy rather than military might, and make sure there are other avenues for young people to get ahead without risking their lives, unnecessarily."

Other service for youth could include expanded AmeriCorps opportunities working with those in poverty and helping people recover from natural disasters. That might appeal to youth in Illinois, which is currently ranked 41st in the country in number of Army recruits.

Another factor in the Army missing recruiting goals is the ever-increasing call for new recruits, with 65,000 more requested this year.

According to Smith, the Army missed recruiting goals nationwide by at least 10,000 in 2008, and has missed its "quality" goal for recruits four years in a row. The Army had claimed goals were met; this analysis found that not to be the case when compared to the number who reported for duty.

The full report is at www.nationalpriorities.org.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - IL