According to America's Army
PR (ostensibly paid for by US tax dollars), the PC version of the popular shooter registered its 8 millionth user this past weekend. The America's Army
user base now apparently spans more than 60 countries, likely owing to the fact that the "game" is freeware; the payoff is in the propagation of a positive image of the US Army throughout various parts of the world. It's no secret that the US Government developed the project as a propaganda device, but it's difficult to measure its impact on worldwide opinions, not to mention US Army recruitment success. We do know that the Army met its recruitment quotas in the two years following the game's release (in 2002).
Lt. Gen. Stephen Speakes, a deputy chief of staff, estimates that increasing the size of the Army's active troops by 65,000 (as recommended by Defense Secretary Robert Gates), would cost $70 billion (to be budgeted between 2009 and 2013). Nearly half of that proposed increase has already been accomplished under a temporary program that will likely be made permanent. It's unclear what portion of the estimated $70 billion, if any, would be spent on future upgrades to America's Army
. If US troop growth is indeed this costly, then America's Army's
true strength may be in its potential to win over the minds and bodies (enlisted in the militaries of US allies) of non-US players.
[Via press release]