Brad Setser Has Lots to Say--All of It Interesting
Kudos to Ryan Nunn of the Brookings Institution

Why Oh Why Can't We Have a Better Press Corps? (Yet Another New York Times Edition)

Was the New York Times's Eric Schmitt snookered? Schmitt writes:

Army Recruiting Improves in June - New York Times: WASHINGTON, June 29 - For the first time since January, the Army met its monthly recruiting goal in June, but still faces what some senior Army officials say is a nearly insurmountable shortfall to meet the service's annual quota. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard B. Myers, told a town-hall meeting at the Pentagon today that the Army had exceeded its June quota, but gave no details. Senior Army officials said in interviews earlier in the day that the Army had exceeded the goal of 5,650 recruits by about 500 people. The Army Reserve also made its first monthly quota since last December, the official said...

But earlier this month CBS News told us:

CBS News: Army Recruiting Continues To Lag: [T]he Army... fell about 25 percent short of its target of signing up 6,700 recruits in May, officials said Wednesday. The gap would have been even wider but for the fact that the target was lowered by 1,350. The Army said it lowered the May target to "adjust for changing market conditions," knowing that the difference will have to be made up in the months ahead....

Lt. Col. Bryan Hilferty, spokesman for the Army's chief of personnel, said... the Army remains cautiously optimistic that it will make up the lost ground this summer — traditionally the most fruitful period of the year for recruiters — and reach the full-year goal of 80,000 enlistees. "One number matters: 80,000," Hilferty said....

With only four months left in the budget year, the Army is at barely 50 percent of its goal. Recruiters would have to land more than 9,760 young men and women a month, on average, to reach the 80,000 target by the end of September.

UPDATE: A correspondent writes:

The June goal (5,600 or so, I believe) was previously published, so at least in this particular case, there's no book-cooking involved.... Army Times [is], of course, intimately interested in recruiting numbers, and publish[es] a monthly recruiting tracker that follows the Army's recruiting woes, and includes goals for upcoming months through the end of the fiscal year; the 5,600 goal for June has not, I don't believe, changed since they began running that graphic several months ago.

The June goal is lower largely because of how recruiting 18-year-olds works, and in part because of how the Army accesses and trains incoming soldiers. Graduated high school seniors are more likely to pop into the system in July, and especially August and September. We'll know a lot more when the Army bumps up against its massive August and September goals, which are both above 8,000.

All of which is not to say that the Army has anything but a huge, huge problem on its hands.

People graduate from high school in June, not May. Yet the June goal of 5,650 is 2,400 smaller than the original May goal of 8,050? When we were told before that the summer is "traditionally the most fruitful period of the year for recruiters"? An 80,000 a year target is 6,667 a month on average--and more in the "fruitful" summer months.

Wotisitgood4 gives his opinion:

wotisitgood4: ten bucks says someone is lying: [W]e know from last month that the May target was 8050, and now we are expected to believe that the june target was always 5650? is there a journo on the planet with access to the internet and an abacus?... [W]hen they reduced the May target, they maintained the full year target [of 80,000] and were just "re-allocating" the 1350 across the remaining months -- June, July, August and September -- some of which were presumably stuffed into the June recruiting budget...

Looks like Eric Schmitt of the New York Times needs to do some digging. It would have been easy for him to ask the question: "Why is your June target of 5,650 so much lower than your original May target of 8,050?" He didn't.