your connection to The Boston Globe

Army misses recruitment target for first time in 8 months

Historically, May a difficult period, Pentagon says

The US Army failed to meet its monthly recruitment goal in May for the first time in eight months, the Defense Department announced.

The Army gained 5,101 recruits in May, about 7 percent short of its goal of 5,500, the department said yesterday.

The other three services -- the Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps -- all met their recruiting targets for the month, the Pentagon said.

The last time the Army failed to meet its monthly recruiting goal was September of last year, according to a spokeswoman, Major Anne Edgecomb. The Army remains about 2,000 recruits ahead of its annual goal for 2007, which is 80,000, she said.

"May is historically a difficult time of year" to attract new soldiers, Edgecomb said, with potential recruits distracted by graduations and other end-of-school-year events.

All four services met or exceeded their goals for retention of current active-duty personnel in May, the Pentagon said.

For reserve retention, the Army and Air National Guard missed their targets for May, while the Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force Reserves met or exceeded theirs.

To maintain recruitment and retention during a time of extended combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military has resorted to measures such as higher bonuses and loosened standards.

The Army last year paid $1.09 billion in bonuses, a three fold increase from 2002, according to Army data.

It also increased its maximum age to 42 from 35 and is taking more recruits with lower aptitude test scores or criminal backgrounds.

The Army plans to increase its active-duty ranks by 65,000, or 13.5 percent, over the next five years.