Recruiting problem? What recruiting problem?

The Pentagon says it can't issue its monthly report on military recruiting yet because the numbers need some explaining.

Published June 2, 2005 3:44PM (EDT)

The Pentagon was supposed to release its monthly report on military recruiting Wednesday but didn't. We could speculate that the Pentagon withheld the report because the numbers would show that recruiters are having a hard time coming up with the warm bodies needed to fight in Iraq. But we don't have to speculate -- a Pentagon spokeswoman has all but said as much.

While the Pentagon usually releases its monthly recruitment numbers on the first day of the following month, Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke says it didn't do so this month because the numbers need some explaining. "Military recruiting is instrumental to our readiness and merits the earliest release of data," Krenke told Reuters. "But at the same time, this information must be reasonably scrutinized and explained to the public, which deserves the fullest insight into military performance in this important area."

If it all sounds a little familiar, here's why: Again and again over the last five years, the Bush administration has simply buried statistics that it didn't like. When terrorism statistics suggested that the United States wasn't exactly winning the war on terror, the State Department excluded them from its annual report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism." When the economic news was even grimmer than it is today, the White House tried to kill a Labor Department report on mass layoffs. When governors started using a White House Office of Management and Budget report as a basis for complaints about federal funding for the states, the White House stopped publishing the report.

And last month, a report on overseas base closings disappeared from the Web site of the government commission that produced it. A Pentagon spokesman said the report was pulled because it revealed classified information. What was so secret? A source told the the Washington Post that the Pentagon's complaint seemed to be that the report identified Bulgaria and Romania -- rather than "Eastern Europe" more generally -- as countries U.S. troops might use for training. If that seems like a minor distinction, then just maybe there was another explanation: The report criticized Donald Rumsfeld.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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