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USA Today: Retention Up! – NY Times: Retention Down!

Here’s an interesting contrast between two stories, one in USA Today, the other in the NY Times. They’re reporting on the same subject, military recruiting. But it looks like the NY Times is working hard to cherry-pick data to try to drive home a negative perception.

From USA Today:

Army surpassing year’s retention goal by 15%

Two of every three eligible soldiers continue to re-enlist, putting the Army, which has endured most of the fighting in Iraq, ahead of its annual goal.

The Army was 15% ahead of its re-enlistment goal of 34,668 for the first six months of fiscal year 2006, which ended March 31. More than 39,900 soldiers had re-enlisted, according to figures scheduled to be released today by the Army.

Strong retention has helped the Army offset recruiting that has failed to meet its targets as the war in Iraq has made it harder to attract new soldiers. The Army fell 8% short of its goal of recruiting 80,000 soldiers in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, although it is exceeding its goal this year. Army recruiting figures for the first half of the year are to be released today.

So they’re meeting their recruiting goals this year, and exceeding their retention goals by 15%. Sounds pretty good.

But then we get this from The NY Times:

Young Officers Leaving Army at a High Rate

Young Army officers, including growing numbers of captains who leave as soon as their initial commitment is fulfilled, are bailing out of active-duty service at rates that have alarmed senior officers. Last year, more than a third of the West Point class of 2000 left active duty at the earliest possible moment, after completing their five-year obligation.

It was the second year in a row of worsening retention numbers, apparently marking the end of a burst of patriotic fervor during which junior officers chose continued military service at unusually high rates.

In other words, after a period where retention was at “unusually high rates”, the rate has started to return to a more typical level. And note how the NY Times chose to focus on one subset of military service retention as the overall retention and recruitment picture improves. Agenda journalism from the NY Times, who would’ve thought, right?

Outside the Beltway

posted by: The Editors @ 8:06 am April 10, 2006

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