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Benefits big lure in military recruitment

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Bob Moon: The military seems to be having an easier time looking for a few good men. For the first time since the creation of an all-volunteer military back in 1973, the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines met, or even exceeded, every recruitment target for the just-ended fiscal year. The current job market is one likely reason. But there are also others. Here’s our Washington Bureau Chief John Dimsdale.

JOHN DIMSDALE: Just a few years ago most branches of the military struggled to meet their enlistment goals.

Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army’s Recruiting Command, says it’s been challenging for enlistment officers and not just because the army is waging two wars.

DOUGLAS SMITH: The factors are criminal background, overweight, medical conditions. Also barriers would be people who have not achieved their high school diploma.

One reason all the services hit their yearly targets, according to the Pentagon, is the military benefits package. Average enlistment bonuses are running $14,000. Housing subsidies, health care, cost of living salary adjustments and enhanced college tuition reimbursements look pretty good in this economy. And the military’s surveys show advertising is hitting home with the 17-to-24-year-old target audience.

AD: The kind of training that truly prepares you for the future.

To achieve this success, the army spent a record $22,000 per recruit on advertising, marketing, and enlistment officers. At the University of Maryland’s Center for Research on Military Organization, David R. Segal doesn’t expect that to last.

DAVID R. SEGAL: My anticipation is they will be rewarded for their recruiting success by having their recruiting resources cut back. The Defense Department and Congress are going to say since you are getting all the recruits you need, you don’t need as many recruiters.

Victims of their own success.

In Washington, I’m John Dimsdale for Marketplace.

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