Whatever the theory, many reporters assumed the numbers mean that more young men and women are joining the military."
In fact, however, fewer people joined the Army this year than last year. The Army exceeded its recruitment goals not because recruitment went up but rather because recruitment goals were lowered.
The Army is the service that has been having the hardest time finding new recruits in recent years, in part because it has borne the heaviest burden—and suffered by far the most casualties—in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.
According to the Pentagon's report, the Army's goal for fiscal year 2009 was to sign 65,000 new recruits. It actually signed 70,045—amounting to 8 percent more than the target.
But the picture is less bright than it seems. Though the Pentagon's report doesn't mention this fact, in each of the previous two years, the Army's recruitment goal was 80,000—much higher than this year's. The Army met those targets, but only by drastically lowering its standards—accepting more applicants who'd dropped out of high school or flunked the military's aptitude test.