WASHINGTON, Jan. 22 (UPI) -- The majority of planned troop increases in the U.S. Marine Corps and Army are likely to come from retaining more soldiers over attracting new ones, Pentagon officials said Friday.
The Marine Corps, which now has 181,000 troops, will grow to 202,000 by 2011. The Army, now at 518,000 will grow to 547,000 by 2012, said Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David Chu in a press conference Friday.
The Army recruits about 80,000 new soldiers annually. It will slightly increase its recruitment goals -- by 2,000 to 3,000 - but the remaining 5,000 soldiers a year will be added to the pay rolls through increased retention rates.
The military is set up like a pyramid, with each successive level getting smaller. The new approach will be to slightly increase the layers above the bottom.
The Marine Corps is in a different position. It is far smaller and retires about 39,000 Marines a year, some 20,000 of whom they would reenlist if there were spots for them. According to a Marine Corps official, there is a pool of some 100,000 qualified former Marines separated since 2001 that it can tap to quickly increase its ranks.
Chu said the recruitment problem that has faced the military seems to be rooted in older generations discouraging young people from enlisting. The U.S. Army last year exceeded its recruitment goals but not without allowing in a greater proportion of non-diploma holders than in previous years.
"Our real challenge out there isn't the young people, I would argue, it's parents, coaches, teachers -- the older members of your contingent who, when asked by a young person, 'Well, Dad, Mom, should I do this' -- too often get a sour and unsupportive answer," Chu said. "I think we're getting evidence this started before the war. And I do personally believe part of the cause is generational, but I don't think that explains everything that's out there."