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Air Force Falls Short on Members

October 5, 1999

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Air Force alone among the military services failed to recruit and retain enough members this year to keep its active-duty ranks filled to the level required by Congress, the Pentagon said today.

The Air Force, which for years had so little trouble filling its ranks that it did not advertise on television, fell 2.8 percent short of its ``end strength,″ which Congress set at 370,882 for the budget year ended Sept. 30. Its actual number was 360,574.

The Army stood at 99.8 percent of its authorized level, the Navy at 100 percent and the Marine Corps at 100.2 percent.

Among reserve forces, only the Army National Guard and Marine Reserve met 100 percent of their force goals. The Army Reserve, Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and Navy Reserve fell slightly short.

The fiscal 2000 defense budget that President Clinton was signing today in a Pentagon ceremony attempts to address the problem of maintaining adequate force levels by providing a 4.8 percent pay raise and adjusting pay scales next summer to put more emphasis on rewarding performance rather than longevity.

Pentagon officials said today in advance of the bill signing ceremony that they believe these adjustments will enable the active-duty services to retain more people. They also say the services are looking for more effective means of recruiting young people, including making more use of the Internet.

The Air Force has seen increasing numbers of pilots leave the service for the commercial airline industry, in part because of dissatisfaction with deploying abroad for long periods and at irregular intervals. The Air Force is trying to change this by establishing a set of expeditionary air units that, starting this month, will rotate on certain overseas flying commitments such as enforcing no-flights zones over Iraq. The intention is to give air crews a more predictable and fixed overseas duty schedule.

The active-duty military has 1.4 million members. The biggest of the services is the Army at 480,000, and the smallest is the Marine Corps at 172,500. The Navy has 372,700 members.

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