At the urging of Army officials, Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently approved accelerating the service's growth plan by two years, adding new urgency to the service's efforts to recruit and retain personnel.
During a breakfast Thursday with reporters, Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the Army's personnel chief, said the service will soon begin an active-duty version of the successful Guard Recruiter Assistance Program, which offers bonuses to soldiers who sign up new recruits.
That effort, he said, could help the service attract as many as 1,000 new recruits. Meanwhile, the Army's nascent Active First program, which awards bonuses to soldiers who agree to serve on active duty for a set period of time before ultimately transferring to the National Guard, could grow the force by 3,000 soldiers, he said.
So far, the service has attracted 25 soldiers using Active First, with 100 more in the "pipeline," Rochelle said.
Earlier this year, President Bush announced plans for a permanent increase of the Army's end strength to 547,000 soldiers -- a net growth of 65,000 soldiers. Rochelle said a larger Army will help the service maintain the current pace of deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan without exhausting combat units.
"The solution is to grow the force as quickly as we possibly can," he said. Rochelle could not immediately provide a cost estimate for the new recruiting incentives, but observed that the cost of recruiting an individual soldier has jumped from $15,000 to $21,000 over the last five years, due largely to increased use of bonuses and a growing recruiter pool.