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Faced with its worst recruiting shortfall in decades, the Army lowers its standards. Get three free iTunes songs if you sign up now!

Published October 4, 2005 1:56PM (EDT)

We don't have any doubt that lots of Americans join the National Guard because they love their country and want to do what they can to serve. But a new promotional campaign from the Army National Guard prompts us to wonder: How many will join to get three free downloads from iTunes?

We're not making this up.

With a tip of our Kevlar helmet to Crooks and Liars, we can report that the Army National Guard is encouraging Americans who visit its Web site to turn over their contact information to recruiters by offering them three iTunes downloads in exchange. "Listen up," the come-on says. "Tune in to what the Army National Guard has to offer."

The problem, of course, is that the war in Iraq is causing a lot of young people to tune out. The official recruiting numbers for the fiscal year are now in, and they show that the Army pulled in 73,300 new recruits for the year -- 6,700 short of its goal. According to Reuters, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard also missed their 2005 recruiting goals.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey said yesterday that the Army will try to expand its pool for the coming year by accepting a larger percentage of recruits who score near the bottom of military aptitude tests. Until now, the Army has allowed just 2 percent of its recruiting class to come from those who scored between the 16th and 30th percentile in aptitude tests the Defense Department administers. Now, Harvey says, the Army will allow up to 4 percent of its recruiting class to come from such low scorers.

Harvey said that the Army is merely conforming its standards to ones already in place elsewhere in the Defense Department, and he insisted that the new rules won't result in a dumbing down of the Army. With its iTunes promotion, it seems that the Army National Guard already has that part of the job covered.

By Tim Grieve

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

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