WASHINGTON: The US Army is expected to issue an RFP this week for a wide-ranging recruitment campaign aimed at reversing persistent shortfalls in enrollment.
The $800 million, five-year integrated effort will be awarded to a single full-service agency that will support everything from advertising to promotional and publicity programs, internet campaigns, event marketing, and media relations.
Work for the contract is slated to begin on September 30.
A contract specialist confirmed that PR will be a significant component of the account, but noted that the budget has not yet been sliced and diced.
This is the Army's main recruitment push, which had previously been overseen by Leo Burnett Worldwide, and underwent a budget expansion after the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Last month, the Army released its latest recruitment statistics and acknowledged that it had failed to reach its year-to-date goals. President Bush has held fast to his promise not to reinstate the draft, but the all-volunteer campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq have taxed the military's manpower resources.
Nonetheless, an Army statement expressed optimism that it would meet October targets.
As of April, the active Army had met just 84% of its recruitment projections, and the Reserves, just 79%.
Retention figures were more encouraging; the Army reached its goal for re-enlistments. The selected agency also will have a hand in making sure those targets continue to be met.
During a May 20 press briefing, Maj. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the Army's recruiting commander, noted that the advertising campaign would be geared to potential recruits, as well as to influencers.
In surveys, parents and other influencers have been less likely to recommend military service than they were immediately after 9/11.
Rochelle noted that messages of the Army's communications initiative would focus not on a "call to service," but rather a "call to duty."
"[The focus on duty] elevates it to the level of patriotism, elevates it to the level of service to country [and] nation," he said.
He added, "It's important for us to be able to communicate just who we are, our values, what we stand for, and what we have stood for, for this nation."
Rochelle noted that it's unclear why recruitment has lagged, but attributed it to the low unemployment rate and the challenge of sustaining combat on two fronts.
"Today's conditions represent the most challenging we have seen in recruiting in my 33 years in this uniform," he said.
But he added that the campaign wouldn't explicitly address any one reason.
"If we attempt to address every problem, I think it would simply water down our message," he said. "What we are attempting to do is focus on the value of service."