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For Military, Bad Economy Aids Recruiting


AP Military Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) – The tough economy could make it easier to sign up soldiers.

Fewer civilian jobs mean less competition for military recruiters.

“We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society,” David Chu, the Pentagon’s personnel chief, told a news conference Friday. “I don’t have the Dow Jones banner running up behind me here this morning, but that is a situation where more people are willing to give us a chance.”

For several years, as the Army in particular struggled to meet its recruiting needs, military officials have cited a strong economy as one obstacle to attracting young people looking at their employment options.

It is one reason that over the past year the Army and Marine Corps felt compelled to pay more than $600 million, combined, in bonuses and other financial incentives to entice recruits.

Another negative factor: Parents and others who influence the decisions of enlistment-age men and women have, since the outset of the Iraq war, become less inclined to recommend military service.

In announcing that the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force all met their recruiting goals for the budget year ended Sept. 30, Chu said the economic downturn offers new possibilities for recruiters.

“What more difficult economic times give us, I think, is an opening to make our case to people (potential enlistees) that we might not otherwise have,” Chu said. “And if we make our case, I think we can be successful.”

The military needs any break it can get on recruiting, particularly since it is in the midst of a push to substantially increase the size of the nation’s ground forces – a decision driven by an urgent need to reduce the strain on troops and their families from repeated deployments to Iraq.

Plans are to boost the active-duty Army by 65,000 soldiers to a total of 547,000 by 2010.

The Marines are aiming to grow from 175,000 to 202,000 by 2011.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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