Uncle Sam wants you — and 91,999 others

Hillary Wicai Jan 11, 2007

KAI RYSSDAL: The President said last night he wants another 22,000 troops for Iraq. Maybe you heard the speech. And maybe you’ve seen the analysis that says the Army and the Marine Corps are stretched too thin. That they can’t sustain the plan the President proposes.

Well at about 8:45 this morning Defense Secretary Robert Gates stepped to the microphones.

ROBERT GATES: I am recommending to him a total increase of the two services of 92,000 soldiers and marines over the next five years.

That’s an ambitious goal during the best of times. Never mind when there’s an unpopular war on.

The new troops won’t get to Iraq any time soon. But Marketplace’s Hillary Wicai looked into what it might take to get recruits to sign on the bottom line.

HILLARY WICAI: Ike Skelton, the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, started the hearing today with Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on what he called a positive note. The Democrat from Missouri said he was happy to hear about the new plan for a permanent increase in troops because he says they’re worn out.

IKE SKELTON: This increase is smart policy and I’m more than pleased to say better late than never.

But better late than never is going to cost you. Security analyst Gordon Adams.

GORDON ADAMS: So they are going to be looking, in the Pentagon, for how to add resources, money, to entice people with enlistment bonuses, re-enlistment bonuses.

The military is already spending millions more on recruiting than they used to with an unpopular war on. The Army alone has a five-year billion dollar marketing campaign that produced the slogan “Army Strong.” In addition, military analyst John Pike says the Pentagon is going to have to completely re-think the reserves if they’re going to be able to recruit more there.

JOHN PIKE: The people do not join the Army national guard to go to Iraq. If they wanted to go to Iraq they woulda joined the active army or marines. They’re going to have to come up with a new concept for what it is the national guard does.

Secretary of Defense Gates outlined a new policy that would let reservists stay home for five years after every year of active duty. He’s also establishing new compensation for both active duty and reserve forces required to mobilize or deploy early. How much that early deployment bonus will cost is still being worked out.

In Washington, I’m Hillary Wicai for MarketPlace.

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