On 11 July 2005, American Forces Press Service reported:
Recruiting and retention rates were up in June for all the services in both the active and reserve components, Defense Department officials announced today.
The release of June recruiting and retention statistics for all four services today came as welcome news following a spring slump for the active Army and the reserve components…
In June, the Army outrecruited all the other services in the active component, reaching 109 percent of its mission by enlisting more than 6,157 new soldiers. The Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force all exceeded their June goals as well, recruiting more than 4,500, 4,100 and 2,400 members, respectively, defense officials reported today.
In addition, all services met or exceeded their overall active-duty retention goals for June.
Four of the six reserve components exceeded their June recruiting goals, with only the Army National Guard and Navy Reserve falling short of their missions, officials said…
However, the Army and Air National Guard both reported retention rates that exceeded their June goals — 106 percent for the Army National Guard and 110 percent for the Air National Guard. (more…)
Of course, the fact that all branches except the National Guard and Naval Reserve reached their June goals did not stop the Associated Press, and those news sources which rely on it for their content, from reporting this as bad news. On 12 July 2005, the AP ran this headline, "National Guard Misses Recruitng Goal." Their coverage begins,
The Army National Guard, a cornerstone of the U.S. force in Iraq, missed its recruiting goal for at least the ninth straight month in June and is nearly 19,000 soldiers below its authorized strength, military officials said Monday.
Only toward the end of the story is the fact that all other services met their monthly goals mentioned. But, even then, the article focuses on the fact that the Army has only reached 86% of its goal for this point in the year and the Army Reserve 79%, speculating that the Army will not make its recruiting goals by the end of the fiscal year at the end of September.
Transformation Tracker reported on this issue earlier in the week by directing readers to an analysis by military historian Victor Davis Hanson. Several things from that article to keep in mind include the fact that, historically, the Army has had more difficulty than the other services. Also, it is noted that though the Marines make up a small portion of our force in Iraq, they have taken a disproportionate number of casualties but have still met their recruiting goals.
The media’s reporting of the recruiting story is not even a case of the glass being half full or half empty. It is a case of four classes, three of which are overflowing, one of which is 86% full, and the media reporting that there is a crisis by taking that 14% and making it seem as though it represents all four glasses.
The AP could have very easily reported this story in a balanced way. The amount of positive news far outweighs the negative, yet they made a conscious decision to make the one bit of negative news the main focus of their story. The American people cannot make informed decisions about their military, its operations in Iraq or its transformation, with this kind of blatantly biased reporting by the media. We can only hope that the AP is more responsible next time.
Sources: Donna Miles, "June recruiting, retention stats up for all services," American Forces Press Service (11 July 2005); "National guard misses recruiting goal," Associated Press (12 July 2005).