GI bill, sagging economy boost military recruiting

Defense personnel official says armed services met their fiscal 2010 goals of recruiting a total of 165,291 new active-duty service members.

After another highly successful year of meeting their personnel requirements and attracting exceptionally high quality young men and women, the military's top recruiting officials acknowledged Tuesday that the high unemployment rate was a factor, but praised the post-9/11 GI bill educational benefit as an important draw.

Clifford Stanley, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, and officials from the four armed services announced that they had met their fiscal 2010 goals of recruiting a total of 165,291 new active-duty service members, with 99 percent having high school diplomas or the equivalent, and 117,347 National Guard and reserve recruits with 96 percent.

But looking ahead, Stanley said, "Recruiting remains a challenge." And the Army's recruiting commander, Maj. Gen. Don Campbell, explained that seven in 10 young Americans in the eligible age group are not qualified for military service because of health, education or personal conduct reasons.

Stanley and the service recruiting officials said there was no precise way to predict what impact a certain drop in unemployment would have on their efforts, but agreed the economy is one of the factors influencing young people to enlist.

All of them, however, said the availability of the GI Bill college education payments, and particularly the new opportunity to transfer that benefit to family members was a great incentive to enlist.

Stanley expressed some concern over the tentative sharp reductions in funding for recruiting and reenlistment bonuses in the fiscal 2011 Defense Appropriations bills still working their way through Congress.