WASHINGTON -- Despite recruiting shortfalls for the active Army and all reserve components except the Air Force Reserve in May, defense officials say they will strive to fill the ranks with the highest-quality recruits possible and have no intention of supporting a draft.
The Defense Department released May recruiting and retention statistics for all four services today, providing a departmentwide manpower picture.
The Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force all met or exceeded their May recruiting goals, but the Army fell short by 25 percent. During May, the Army had hoped to recruit 6,700 new members but missed by mark by 1,661 recruits. This makes the fourth month in a row that the active duty Army has missed their recruiting goal..
The Navy enlisted 1,947 members in May; the Marine Corps, 1,904; and the Air Force, 1,049.
On the reserve component front, the Air Force Reserve surpassed its recruiting goal for the seventh consecutive month, enlisting 682 recruits. And while the Army Reserve, Naval Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve brought aboard more recruits than in any month since October, all fell short of their goals for May, officials said.
The Army Reserve met 82 percent of its May recruitment goal, enlisting 2,269 soldiers. The Naval Reserve brought aboard 1,074 sailors, reaching 94 percent of its May goal; and the Marine Corps Reserve met 88 percent of its recruiting goal, recruiting 955 Marines.
While recruiting numbers for May were lower than hoped - something defense officials acknowledged was expected during the slow spring recruiting season - every service met or exceeded its retention goals for the month.
That's positive news, because military readiness depends on both recruiting and retention, and success in one can help offset shortages in the other, Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary for military personnel policy, said during a joint interview with American Forces Press Service and Pentagon Channel.
"Retention has overachieved, and that has helped the underachievement in some parts of the recruiting effort," Carr said.
While acknowledging that all the components "had another tough month" recruiting in May, Carr said he's optimistic that rates will pick up during the summer, when new high school graduates begin enlisting.
Despite the pressures recruiters are up against - a strong economy, higher recruitment goals and lack of support by many parents and other people who influence a person's recruitment decision - Carr said the military won't drop its standards to fill its ranks.
The Defense Department requires that 90 percent of recruits have high school diplomas and that at least 60 percent of them get higher-than-average scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. All active components met these standards in May.
Carr said neither requirement can be easily compromised. High school diplomas represent "a stick-to-it-iveness and ability to follow through," he said, a strong indicator of whether a recruit will successfully complete an initial enlistment.
In addition, there's "a direct, compelling correlation" between recruits' aptitude test scores and their productivity and job performance, Carr said. "High aptitude translates into performance," he said.
Similarly, Carr said the Defense Department has no interest in resorting to a draft. "There is zero chance that the department is going to a draft," he said.
Today's weapon systems demand an environment in which experienced noncommissioned officers work hand in hand with junior members so they can develop their skills before advancing in the ranks, Carr said. And that's a dynamic the conscription system simply doesn't promote, he said.
"We need more people beyond their first term of service, and we don't want 'shake and bake' sergeants holding control over lethal systems," he said.
"Conscription is fatal to our performance," Carr said. "It's not a social thing. It's a performance thing."