Army does battle on PR front

Faced with a significant recruiting shortfall that could have long-term

implications for future readiness, the Army is re-engineering its marketing

strategy and plans to award a contract to a public relations firm to help

it compete against today's vigorous Internet economy.

The Army fell 6,300 soldiers short of its fiscal 1999 recruiting goals and

missed its reserve recruitment goal by more than 10,000. The trend started

in fiscal 1997, when the Army was forced to lower its recruiting goal to

accommodate the lack of interest. It also missed its fiscal 1998 goal by

more than one percent.

The shortfalls mark "a matter of the highest public interest," according

to a Commerce Business Daily notice released on Wednesday.

"The market dynamics recruiters face today are as challenging as any faced

in the history of the All-Volunteer Force," the CBD notice stated. In fact,

a study published last year by Rand Corp. concluded that the private sector's

increased demand for workers with high-tech computer skills is partly to

blame for the lack of interest among college-bound students.

As a first step toward re-evaluating its recruitment strategy, the Army

has retained the assistance of Chicago-based Jones-Lundin Associates Inc.

to help it find the right advertising agency. The company will send out

market research questionnaires to select firms that have at least $350 million

in annual revenues and will help the Army interview perspective companies.

A spokesman for Army headquarters said the effort is part of a larger program

to refocus the Army's recruiting message and to make sure the service is

getting that message across to the right people. Once the Army gets people

to sign up, however, they tend to keep them longer, the spokesman said.

"Retention is a success story in the Army," the spokesman said. "We have

surpassed our retention goals every year for the last several years."

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