Army recruiting short again in March

Goal missed by nearly a third in second straight shortfall

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Army fell almost one-third short of its recruiting goal in March, its second consecutive month of shortfall amid concerns that the Iraq war is discouraging young people from enlisting.

Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey had said recently that internal forecasts indicated the Army was likely to miss its monthly recruiting goals in March and April, although he and other Army officials have said they remain cautiously optimistic of reaching the full-year target of 80,000 recruits.

The Army has not missed its full-year target since 1999.

The last time it had missed a monthly goal, prior to February, was in May 2000. Opinion surveys have indicated that a growing number of young people and their parents are wary of the Army's recruiting pitch at a time when soldiers in Iraq are killed and wounded virtually every day.

Early spring is typically one of the more difficult periods of the year for military recruiters.

The Army has responded to the slump by increasing the number of recruiters and offering bigger signup bonuses.

The Army's goal for March was to enlist 6,800 recruits, but it fell short by 2,150, or 32 percent, according to official statistics released Tuesday. That was slightly worse than in February when a goal of 7,050 enlistees was missed by 1,936, or 27 percent. The target for April is 6,600.

The Army Reserve did even worse in March than the regular Army. It recruited barely half the 1,600 soldiers it wanted for the month. It has not met a monthly goal since December 2004, and for the period from October 2004 through March it has met only 82 percent of its goal.

The regular Army, as of March 31, is at 89 percent of its full-year goal.