How to Lie With Numbers, U.S. Army Style

You might have noticed today’s big news that the U.S. Army – and other military branches – met their recruiting goals for Fiscal Year 2009 (FY2009), for the first time in several years.

That sounds like amazing news, and everyone seems to be suggesting the recession is to thank for the quantity and quality of new recruits.

I’m sorry to say, that’s absolutely and completely untrue.

The U.S. Army is once again trying to manipulate the recruiting narrative and improve their public image by. How? “Fuzzy math”, basically. “How to Lie With Numbers 101” sort of stuff.

In FY2009, the Army had 70,045 “accessions”, against a target of 65,000 accessions.

Sounds great, right? It’s a “record recruiting year”, according to the Army.

Guess what? In FY2008, the Army had 80,517 accessions against a target of 80,000 (see this Army news release.)

Recruiting fell by, if I’m doing the math right, thirteen percent from FY2008 to 2009, but that’s okay, because they lowered the goal by a bit over eighteen percent.

They have this for the last few years to try and control the message, and I really don’t get why people don’t realize this, remember this, or call them on it! It’s not just the Army, though they’re the worst offender:

Army goals in FY2007: 80,000
Army goals in FY2009: 65,000

Navy goals in FY2007: 37,000
Navy goals in FY2009: 35,500

Marine goals in FY2007: 35,576
Marine goals in FY2009: 31,400

Air Force goals in FY2007: 27,801
Air Force goals in FY2009: 31,980

Army National Guard goals in FY2007: 70,000
Army National Guard goals in FY2009: 56,000

Army Reserve goals in FY2007: 35,505
Army Reserve goals in FY2009: 34,598

Air National Guard goals in FY2007: 10,690
Air National Guard goals in FY2009: 9,500

As far as I can tell, only the Air Force, of all people, are actually sustaining year-to-year recruiting targets and numbers…

…and that doesn’t address the quality of the new recruits, which is a whole other ball of wax.

If you look at the numbers for the past five or six years, and review the discussions of them, it’s very clear that recruiting is in a steep downward spiral, and has been for some time. The Department of Defense first tried to address this by lowering their standards for new enlistees – and then lowering them at least twice more. In the short term, this was successful, at least on paper – but a lot of concerns were expressed about the quality of the personnel involved. Apparently, even the relaxed recruiting standards aren’t enough to do the job any more, so they moved the targets again and again until they finally dropped below the level of recruits… and now they’re crowing because they made their lowered targets, and expect the rest of the population to cheer on this great “success”, apparently.

Completely absent from the Pentagon figures for FY2009, incidentally, are how many recruits were classed as “high quality” as a result of their ASVAB scores, and how much this varied between branches of service.

I expect the downward trend to continue, incidentally – the Pentagon is cutting the recruiting budget by eleven percent, for reasons I really can’t quite fathom.

Yay America…

Published in: 'D' for 'Dumb', General | on October 14th, 2009| Comments Off on How to Lie With Numbers, U.S. Army Style

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