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As the war in Iraq enters its sixth year, the U.S. Army has steadily lowered its recruiting standards to fill its ranks.

Uncle Sam wants YOU for the U.S. Army (really, really badly) 

As the war in Iraq enters its sixth year, the U.S. Army has steadily lowered its recruiting standards to fill its ranks, according to data from the Department of Defense and the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit research organization. But the Army's top training commander, Gen. William S. Wallace, says concerns about declining quality of the recruits are "rumors." "If you're concerned about the quality of the American soldier, instead of sitting around smoked-filled rooms in Washington, D.C., debating the statistics," go to an Army base in Iraq or Afghanistan and "make your own assessment," Wallace told an audience at a February meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army. An index:

  • Percentage of new Army recruits who had a high school diploma in 2003: 86

  • Percentage who had a high school diploma in 2007: 71

  • Minimum percentage desired by the Department of Defense: 90

  • Percentage of all new Army recruits who scored above the 50th percentile on the Armed Forces Qualifying Test in 2003: 72

  • Percentage of all new Army recruits who scored above the 50th percentile in 2007: 61

  • Percentage of recruits from Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, Garner, Burlington, Henderson and Wake Forest who scored above the 50th percentile on the AFQT in 2003: 77

  • Percentage of local recruits who scored above the 50th percentile in 2007: 62

  • Rank of Cumberland County among U.S. counties ranked according to the number of Army recruits in 2007: 13

  • Number of recruits from Cumberland County in 2007: 399

  • Number of recruits from 51st-ranked Wake County: 164

  • Minimum age for an Army recruit: 17

  • Maximum age for an Army recruit in 2003: 35

  • Maximum age after January 2006: 40

  • Maximum age after June 2006: 42

  • Amount of the "quick-ship" bonus for recruits willing to report to basic training within 30 days of enlistment: $20,000

  • Maximum enlistment bonus before 2006: $20,000

  • Maximum enlistment bonus after 2006: $40,000

  • Total Army spending on re-enlistment bonuses in 2006: $736.9 million

  • Percentage increase in total spending in three years: 718

  • Percentage of active-duty Army recruits in 2007 who are white: 81

  • Percentage who are black, Hispanic and Asian: 15, 11 and 4, respectively

  • Total Army recruits per 1,000 youth in the U.S. and abroad: 1.59

  • Total recruits per 1,000 youth in the South: 1.99

  • Ranking of the South among U.S. regions in number of recruits per 1,000 youth: 1

  • Percentage of active and reserve Army recruits granted waivers for problems that would otherwise prohibit service in 2007: 21

  • Number of waivers: 22,186

  • Number of waivers granted for convicted felons: 598

  • Number granted for drug and alcohol use: 1,492

  • Number granted for pre-existing medical conditions: 8,637

  • Number granted to recruits who committed misdemeanors: 9,935

  • Percentage of 3,437 current and retired U.S. military officers who believe the military is weaker than it was five years ago: 60

  • Percentage who agreed with the statement "The war in Iraq has stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin": 88

Sources: Department of Defense (www.defenselink.mil/prhome/mpp.html), the National Priorities Project (priorities.org/militaryrecruiting2007), Army Times (www.armytimes.com), Foreign Policy magazine and the Center for a New American Century survey (www.foreignpolicy.com)

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