Thursday, August 18, 2005

Uncle Sam Needs You

By Mark Tran / Guardian 01:35pm

July proved to a good month for the US army's recruitment target. This branch of the US armed forces has struggled to meet its recruitment targets but last month it signed up 8,085 new recruits, beating its target of 7,450.

Still, when the army finishes its financial year on 30 September it is expected to be 7,000 short of its 80,000 recruiting goal. With public support for the war in Iraq steadily dropping, the army chief of staff, General Peter Schoomaker, tells the San Francisco Chronicle that next year "may be the toughest recruiting environment ever."

That's no surprise when the army is up against the likes of Cindy Sheehan, who is camped outside George Bush's Texas ranch in protest at the death of her son in Iraq. Media coverage of returning casualties from Iraq, such as this powerful piece in the Washington Post does the US army no favours either.

Given this unpromising context, Business Week reports that the army will spend more money on recruitment ads next year, about $320m up from $240m this year. As it helpfully points out this amounts to $4,000 per recruit if the army signs up 80,000 next year - more than twice what Toyota spends to woo a new customer.

Because of my avocation and my hopes to shortly kick back the rat race to someone else's lap and start living the high life off commercial voiceover revenues, this article caught my eye.

Toyota ads are all over the place and they sell millions of cars nationwide each year. The Army is going to spend more than Toyota for a few measly dozen thousands? Will the recruits get that cool "employee pricing" on hospital beds and coffins? How about body armor? Any chance that will be thrown in as an option? Can a recruit lease, rather than buy? You know, trade it in for a brand new war in two years, maybe in Iran? What's the warranty? Can they haggle, you know, maybe get free undercoating, or at least an extra M-16? I mean, if I'm going to sign up for a war, I want to get all the candy!

I thought we were in a fiscal crisis? Maybe if they stopped, you know, fighting in Iraq, they could save some money on recruitment?