Army National Guard

Misses Recruiting Goal

The Army National Guard, a cornerstone of the U.S. force in Iraq, missed its recruiting goal for at least the ninth straight month in June and is nearly 19,000 soldiers below its authorized strength, military officials said Monday.

The Army Guard was seeking 5,032 new soldiers in June but signed up only 4,337, a 14 percent shortfall, according to statistics released yesterday by the Pentagon. It is more than 10,000 soldiers behind its year-to-date goal of almost 45,000 recruits and has missed its recruiting target for at least 17 of the past 18 months.

"The recruiting environment remains difficult in terms of economic conditions and alternatives," the Army said in a statement.

Jack Harrison, a spokesman for the National Guard Bureau, said that despite the shortfall, the service is still able to meet its commitments to the Pentagon as well as to state governors, who call on the Guard during disasters and other emergencies.

The Pentagon has already significantly reduced its use of all Guard and reserve forces in the past two years.

Guard troops make up more than one-third of the soldiers in Iraq, numbering six brigades plus a division headquarters.

AFL-CIO Hopeful of

Keeping Dissidents

AFL-CIO leaders say they are making progress toward reaching agreement with a coalition of dissident unions in hopes of minimizing the number of defections from the nationwide federation of almost 60 unions.

But the optimism is muted: Some labor leaders fear that the federation might lose at least one -- the Service Employees International Union, the federation's largest union, with 1.8 million members.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said yesterday in an interview with the Associated Press that the federation is doing everything it can to avoid losing any of the coalition's five unions.

"The differences between the proposals for change are not too wide, and progress has been made on a couple of major issues," Sweeney said. "A split would be bad for workers."

The AFL-CIO has substantial differences with the five dissident unions, which represent more than 5 million of the federation's nearly 13 million members.

Pa. Senator Need Not

Repay Kids' Tuition

A Pennsylvania state education official sided with Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) in a dispute over funding for his children's education, saying a state school district did not file its request for a refund promptly.

Santorum's five school-age children attended a Pennsylvania Internet-based charter school. But Santorum withdrew them in November when district officials in Penn Hills questioned why they were paying tuition when the children lived primarily in Virginia.

The suburban Pittsburgh district, where Santorum owns property and has his legal residence, was providing tuition under a program intended to give local students the cyber-school option.

In an opinion released yesterday, a hearing officer recommended that the state education secretary dismiss the district's request for a refund, because it did not file objections in a timely manner.

Erin Vecchio, a Democratic school board member, said in November that the district had paid about $100,000 for the Santorum children to attend the Midland-based cyber-school since 2001. Santorum called the allegations "baseless and politically motivated."

-- From News Services