DoD Will Commit $140 Million Budget to Recruiting
By Master Sgt. Stephen Barrett, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 13, 1997 DoD is proposing a $140 million recruiting effort as part of the fiscal 1998 defense budget in the department's efforts to bolster enlistments.
Defense officials here project a need to enlist nearly 205,000 men and women in fiscal 1998 to meet service requirements. In meeting those demands, recruiters will face broad challenges in convincing candidates about the benefits of military service.
"The recent Youth Attitude Tracking Study has changed the way we approach recruiting," said Fred Pang, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy. "Because of [the study], we have to have a robust program that will challenge and entice people to join."
Recruiters have been striving to find high-quality prospects, officials said. Pang said press coverage of the military drawdown has led many potential candidates to believe the services are not hiring. He said DoD received extra advertising money from Congress last year to help combat those hiring myths.
"You've got to give Congress credit for seeing the problems we were having," said Pang. "We went through some rough waters last year, and Congress came to our support with the funding necessary to help recruiting efforts."
Besides battling the drawdown myths, recruiters also face questions about frequent deployments. U.S. military missions in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia had potential recruits and their parents concerned about the use of U.S. forces for operations other than war. Recruiters throughout the country have said some prospective recruits don't consider peacekeeping and humanitarian missions as defending the nation's interests.
Pang said all potential recruits have to do is listen to the folks who deployed to serve in those missions. "If you ask those service members about those deployments, they'll tell you how important those missions were," said Pang. "They'll tell you about the contributions they felt they made -- both as individuals and as nation. If we can get people out there to tell those stories, we'll help recruiting."
DoD exceeded its fiscal 1996 goal of 180,000 new recruits. The services met their fiscal 1997 first quarter recruiting objectives, but the overall pace toward this year's goal of 210,000 enlistees has been slow, Pang said. That's not unusual for the first quarter, he noted.
"You've got people who are thinking about joining, but want to hold off until after the Christmas holidays, he said. "In October, you're also talking to people who are already committed to school, colleges or to finding local jobs. We know we usually make up those early numbers in the second quarter. Still, we hope we'll get off to a better start in recruiting when fiscal 1998 rolls around."
While recruiting duty demands a lot of time and remains tough, Pang said, the recruiting aim also remains the same -- to have a military that reflects American society at large. He said the services will continue to advertise to attract specific audiences -- women, high school graduates and those with technical skills.
The services will continue promoting Montgomery GI Bill education benefits and enlistment bonuses for specialized skills. Recruiters will emphasize health and dental care benefits, vacation days, commissary and post exchange privileges, and opportunities unique to their services -- ranging from foreign travel to special training.
Pang said targeting does not mean DoD is setting quotas for specific gender, race or ethnic groups. He said DoD's bottom line is to recruit the best qualified people.
While DoD recruits new personnel, it will also continue its efforts to help recruiters do their jobs, Pang said. Although the fiscal 1998 budget includes no new financial assistance programs, the services are looking at ways to further enhance recruiters' quality of life.
One would cut the hours recruiters spend on the job. Recent statistics from DoD's Accession Policy Office show some recruiters work more than 60 hours a week. Pang said he would like to see that number reduced to provide recruiters more time with their families.
Another is improving "home basing" -- expanding a program that would give recruiters working near military bases higher priority for government housing. Most bases now allow recruiters to use their base government quarters, but at the same or lower priority of troops assigned on base.
A third proposal would help recruiters assigned away from military bases and their families to find health care providers. A common recruiter complaint is having to pay medical and dental expenses out of pocket because of local scarcities of doctors who enrolled in TRICARE or CHAMPUS.
"We can't promise anything right now, but we will try to make all moves that make sense and try provide good quality of life for those on recruiting duty," said Pang.