Recruit Quality High, Numbers a Bit Low
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 1998 Pentagon officials are pleased with the overall number and quality of this year's recruits, but they express concern about Army and Navy recruiting shortfalls in fiscal 1998.
"Overall, we did very well; over 97 percent of the goal was met," said Air Force Col. James R. Holaday, deputy director for accession policy in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management Policy. "DoD has very high quality standards and those quality standards were met among that 97 percent."
In general, however, the Defense Department is concerned about meeting personnel needs, Holaday said. While the Air Force and Marine Corps met and even surpassed annual recruiting goals, the Navy fell short by about 12 percent -- 6,900 sailors -- and the Army fell short by a little under 1 percent -- about 800 soldiers.
"We are concerned about that, and we are taking action to try to turn that around in fiscal 1999," Holaday said. While looking for ways to attract more recruits, the military will not sacrifice quality, he stressed. There are no plans to lower enlistment standards to enable people with less education or lower qualification test scores to join, he said.
Since 1992, the military has required 90 percent of its new recruits to have high school diplomas, and 60 percent must score in the top half on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test. "It's a very tough standard to meet and our recruiters are meeting it," Holaday said. "I don't see any move afoot to lower that goal."
The current plan is to add more resources to the overall recruiting effort. This includes offering enlistment bonuses, enhancing educational benefits, upping the number of recruiters and adding more money to the advertising budget.
Education and training opportunities are the biggest draw for potential recruits, Holaday noted. "The Montgomery G.I. Bill is a very strong attractant. Plus, all the services have programs that augment and enhance the educational opportunities that are already in place."
The military also plans to add more recruiters to the 14,000 or so already in the field, Holaday said. This will "increase the presence in high schools, community and junior colleges, where we know there are young people that meet the requirements. They're the right age, they're qualified, they're smart. Those are the people we're looking to recruit."
He said a 30-year low in the unemployment rate in the civilian sector means a tougher time attracting potential soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. "Our real competition right now is the economy," he said. "There are more opportunities for people to work at other jobs as they come out of high school. The economy has also produced a lot of money for kids to go to college, so we're seeing more going straight to college instead of coming into the armed forces as a means to finance their education."
Military officials plan to increase the advertising budget, which already totals more than $200 million a year. Recruiting is a sales-oriented business, Holaday said, and whether you're selling cars or military careers, advertising is important.
"All the services use commercial advertising agencies to make sure that we're on the leading edge all the time," he said. "As we face further challenges in competition with the economy, I think you'll see more innovative commercials."
Men and women already in uniform can help the recruiting effort by becoming role models, Holaday said. "Across the country and in Congress, there are fewer people that have had military experience," he noted. "During the drawdown in the late 1980s, we sent a lot of people home and they may not have had a very positive military experience since they were asked to leave.
"That is one more reason why every service member -- almost 1.4 million of them -- should become that role model and help foster an awareness across the country of the military and what it has to offer."
Recruiting affects every member of the military, Holaday said. "Every person in uniform today should be concerned about recruiting, because recruiting has a direct impact on readiness. The only way to sustain the force we have today is to recruit new people."