The Army wants as many as one-third of its future enlisted recruits to have college degrees and plans to create two new jobs — one enlisted, one warrant officer — to keep high-performing recruiters looking for them, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Tuesday.
As the Army faces recruiting challenges, the service is also going through “a moment of transformation” with potential changes to the entire force structure and overall modernization, Wormuth said in a roundtable with reporters.
“There are a lot of things happening that are outside of the United States Army’s ability to control: the declining percentage of young Americans who are eligible to join the military, the declining propensity,” Wormuth said. “What we’ve really tried to focus on since this is an existential issue for us is, what can we change right now?”
The Pentagon’s 2024 budget calls for funding bumps for recruiting and advertising by hundreds of millions and calls for a DOD report on efforts to expand military eligibility “by eliminating unnecessary disqualifying standards and modifying the recruitment standards and waiver process.”
Typically, about half of the Army’s new recruits each year are high school seniors or recent graduates. But today’s recent grads enter a job market where only 15 to 20 percent of workers have just a high school education. As a result, young people are more likely to head to college after graduation, Wormuth said.
And within the Army, more and more weapons, jobs and missions will rely on high tech equipment.
As a result, the Army’s new goal is to have one-third of new recruits with degrees by 2028. The service also plans to raise its presence recruiting on college campuses.
To get there, Wormuth said the Army needs to do a better job of educating the public about its higher tech opportunities in areas like AI, electronic warfare and data science. People tend to think of the Army as infantry and armor, she said, “we’re all of that and more.”
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In order to compete for talent with the private sector, the Army plans to create a team of recruiters with experts in IT, data management, survey design, labor market analysis, marketing, operations and procurement. The service will also improve its evaluation of recruitment results with data, said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy A. George.
As the Army refocuses on who will be its future recruits, Wormuth said, it will also make changes to the soldiers tasked with finding them. Traditionally, recruiters are pulled from regular army jobs for three years of service signing up new recruits before returning to regular duty. Insead, the Army wants to have more troops specialize and commit to long term recruiter positions.
To that end, she said, the Army will create a new warrant officer position and a new enlisted MOS, 42T, which will focus on talent acquisition.
“We are going to shift from what I would call sort of a borrowed workforce to a permanent specialized recruiter workforce,” she said.
At the top of the Army’s recruiting efforts, the service’s marketing and recruiting will be consolidated as a three-star command, reporting directly to Wormuth’s office and the Army Chief of Staff. They will also expand the commander’s tenure from two- to four years.
Wormuth said her own experience as Secretary showed the value of a longer tenure. “I’m more effective as the Secretary of the Army at two and a half years in than I was in the first six months,” Wormuth said.”This will give the opportunity for that leader to really understand the job, put new initiatives in motion and see them through.”
The Army expects to reach a total force of 452,000 active duty soldiers by the end of fiscal year 2023 with nearly 55,000 new recruits – 10,000 short of its original goal.
In fiscal 2022, the Army fell 25% short of its 60,000 recruitment goal.
The 2020 Qualified Military Available Study said that without waivers, only 23% of young Americans meet current standards due to various disqualifications from weight to drug usage.
In May 2022, Wormuth told Task & Purpose that “mainsteam media” reports focused on sexual harassment, assault and suicide have made it harder to recruit Generation Z and that the Army would need to show its making an effort to resolve those issues to get Gen Z, the population born after 1996, on board.
The Army has begun looking for new soldiers in non-traditional recruitment cities on the east and west coasts and using enlistment bonuses of up to $50,000. Those bonuses weren’t as popular as the option for recruits to choose their first duty station, she said.
One program that is showing results in getting otherwise unqualified troops into uniform is the Future Soldier Preparatory Course, a multi-week program before basic training that includes physical and academic preparation.
Wormuth also previously expressed concerns over Republican cries of the military going ‘woke’ and its potential to interrupt recruitment during the 2024 presidential campaign. On Tuesday, Worthmuth said it’s important to continue showcasing that the Army “looks like the nation it serves.”
Wormuth also said Army officials plan to talk with Congress in the near future about changes to the service’s structure. One of the areas which has received more attention is the Army’s desire to reduce the number of Special Forces soldiers or units. Wormuth noted that the Army’s special operations force has grown “considerably” over the last two decades during the post-9/11 wars.
“There’s some room to make some very modest, targeted reductions there,” she said, adding that the Army is working alongside US Special Operations Command to review the total size of the military’s special operations forces.
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