The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps met goals for active duty and reserve recruiting during the budget year ended Sept. 30 the first time that has happened since the all-volunteer force was established, said Defense Department head of personnel Bill Carr.
He told a Pentagon press conference that it's partly because of department spending on finding recruits, even as fewer civilian jobs were available due to the nation's economic problems. He also cited increases in military pay.
For the active-duty force overall, Carr said 96 percent of recruits had a high school diploma, the best showing since 1996. For the Army, it was about 95 percent, up 11 percentage points from the previous year. And 73 percent of Pentagon recruits scored above average on the military's math and verbal aptitude testing, the best showing since 2004, Carr said.
The military spends about $10,000 per recruit, taking into account advertising, recruiter time and office leases for recruiting stations, he said. Recruits are in the 90th percentile of earners for their education and time in the workplace, Carr said.
He said studies show that those born between 1978 and 1996 "are more inclined toward service to society. That's a good thing, because that means we start off stronger with a given group of young people."
There also are factors that limit the pool from which the military must draw roughly 300,000 recruits each year. Some 70 percent of American high school students go on to college now, compared with only half in the 1980s. And one in four in the prime recruiting age of 17 to 24 are obese, raising fitness questions, compared with one in 20 in the 1980s, Carr said.