Patriotism dwindling, Army turns to cash in search of recruits
For enterprising young people hoping to pay down their mortgages or start up a business, they can talk to their banks -- or they can try their local Army recruiter.
Starting in January, five US cities will serve as test markets for the Army Advantage Program, a new recruitment incentive package which will dole out $40,000 to enlistees willing to fulfill a five-year commitment in the service, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer's Patrick O'Donnell. The money must be applied to mortgages or used to benefit a registered business. Lower-dollar amounts will be offered for shorter stints.
"The old patriotic reasons aren't quite pulling in recruits for the Army as well as they used to. So the Army is adding a new financial incentive to the college tuition benefits and bonuses it already offers," writes O'Donnell. Cleveland joins Albany, NY; Montgomery, Ala; Seattle and San Antonio as the first to offer the incentive.
"The money is available to soldiers after they finish their enlistment and they show proof to the Army that they are trying to buy a house or have registered a business with their state," O'Donnell reports. "If the house purchase or business start-up does not go through, they may keep the money."
A spokeswoman for the Army told the paper that the new program would give the Army tools to compete with private sector opportunities available to potential recruits.
"This is a very difficult time to recruit for an all-volunteer army," she said. "We have to compete with the other options that are out there in the civilian world. This is a way of competing."
O'Donnell reports that one former local Army recruiter, David Hack, was surprised by the new bonus -- but said he didn't think it would be the deciding factor in whether young people decided to sign up.
"This is just icing on the cake," Hack told the paper. "The main selling point for a young man or woman is duty...You can't pay a person to put the uniform on. You can't pay him to run up the hill and charge live ammo."
The program is just the latest in an array of Army efforts to boost surging recruitment requirements. In August, the Army instituted a "quick ship" bonus that offered $20,000 in cash to recruits willing to begin their training within weeks of sign-up. According to the Plain Dealer, such bonuses cannot be added to the mortgage/business payout if a recruit is already receiving the $40,000 maximum amount.
In addition to bonuses and incentives, the Army has also recently lowered their recruitment standards in a push to meet goals. As reported last week by the Boston Globe, the Army has "accepted a growing percentage of recruits who do not meet its own minimum fitness standards. The October statistics show that at least 1 of every 5 recruits required a waiver to join the service, leading military analysts to conclude that the Army is lowering standards more than it has in decades."