Faced with increasing demand for new soldiers, the Army has reached deeper into the pool of marginally qualified recruits, offered hundreds of millions in bonuses and relaxed the process for granting waivers for marijuana use.

The Army will reach its goal of 80,000 new soldiers without compromising quality, predicted Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, who leads its recruiting command. The need for new soldiers comes as Congress has reversed trends begun in the Obama administration to downsize the military. An additional headwind for recruiting in all the service branches: a growing economy where civilian jobs, not joining the military, attract young people.

“It’s in an environment where unemployment is 4.5%,” Snow said. “We’ve got our work cut out for us.”

So long as the Army, the largest of the armed services, continues to tinker at the margins by accepting a small number of recruits with lower qualifications, the Army won’t encounter the problems it did in the mid-2000s, said Beth Asch, an expert on military recruiting at the non-profit RAND Corp.

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