IN OTHER WORDS : Military numbers

The US Army’s inability to recruit enough new soldiers to sustain its worldwide commitments is already serious, is becoming alarming and poses a real threat to the future of America’s all-volunteer military. The requisite political energies to address the problem aren’t likely to be mobilised, however, if the army keeps massaging monthly numbers to conceal the extent of the shortfall. In May, for example, the army originally hoped to send 8,050 new soldiers to training camps. Early in the month, the target was dropped significantly, to just 6,700. Even that lowered target, it turns out, was missed by a whopping 25 per cent, with only about 5,000 new recruits entering boot camp. Even if enlistments spurt temporarily during the summer, as the Pentagon now desperately hopes, it is hard to see how the army expects to train the 80,000 new troops it will need this year to maintain its authorised strength. Instead of managing its recruitment numbers and playing dangerous games with quality standards, the army needs to level with the public and Congress about what it will take to meet the nation’s defence needs and restore the health of a volunteer force that has served America well. — The Boston Globe