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Cohen, Caldera Recognize Recruiting Successes

Presenters: Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen and Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera
September 28, 2000 11:30 AM EDT

(Also participating were Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. John Keane and Army Deputy Chief of Public Affairs Col. Barry Willey.)

Cohen: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I just wanted to stop here as I'm on my way to Andrews Air Force Base, but I wanted to stop by and offer my congratulations to the Army and the other services for their recruiting successes this year. Our figures show that every service will meet its recruiting goal in the current fiscal year, which ends Saturday, and this is the first time in three years that all services have met their active duty recruiting goals. This success, in the face of the nation's strong economy and the stiff competition from business, results from a lot of hard work and a great deal of new approaches that have been taken on the part of the services.

Meeting our recruiting goals reflects a combination of measures. Decisions, for example, to put more recruiters on the street, new approaches to advertising, and higher enlistment bonuses; but most of all, I believe that this success reflects a determination, certainly from my office and the service secretaries, to make recruiting a top priority.

In addition, retention is improving, and it's a reflection, again, of the impact of the recent improvements in pay and retirement and housing. Better support for our men and women in uniform is producing a more stable and a more experienced force. And we certainly can't rest on any laurels. Recruiting is always going to remain a challenging endeavor, as long as growing businesses are trying to hire the very high quality men and women who defend America today.

But I wanted to be here this morning to particularly congratulate Secretary Caldera, General Keane and others and those in the other services for the great work that you have done to maintain this top force that we have. Thank you very much, Secretary Caldera.

Caldera: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Willey: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. I am Colonel Barry Willey, Deputy Chief of Army Public Affairs, and we are here today to recognize a significant recruiting milestone for the Department of the Army. This morning we will have remarks by Secretary of the Army Louis Caldera and General John Keane, the vice chief of staff of the Army. Joining us for today's announcement is General John Abrams, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, Major General Evan Gaddis, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command, and Command Sergeant Major Roger Leturno, the recruiting command sergeant major.

Also joining us as guests are Private Keith McGowen, our 80,000th active duty recruit; his mother, Ms. Wanda Benavides, and his grandfather, Mr. Raymond Schmidt, a retired Army veteran himself; and Private McGowen's recruiter, Staff Sergeant Robert Jaynes. Welcome to all.

And now, on behalf of Chief of Army Public Affairs, Major General Gil Meyer, it's my pleasure to introduce the Secretary of the Army, the Honorable Louis Caldera.


Caldera: Thank you very much, Colonel Willey.

Good morning all; General Keane, General Gaddis, General Abrams. We also have General Tim Maude, our deputy chief of staff for personnel, with us today. And especially to Private Keith McGowen and his family.

Today is a very, very special day. Today we announce that the United States Army met its recruiting goals for FY [fiscal year] 2000 for our Active, Reserve and National Guard components. It's a very exciting day because many outside the Army thought that this year might even be worse than last year was.

This year we were challenged to recruit 80,000 soldiers, 11,800 more than we recruited last year, for the Active components. As you know, last year was one of our worst years in the past 20; we fell 6,500 short of our goal of 74,500. But we had faith that we could accomplish our recruiting goals; that the opportunity to serve in the United States Army is a great opportunity for any young man or woman in our country, and that if we did a better job of communicating what that opportunity was, that these young men and women would respond.

With a lot of hard work and determination by our recruiting force, by the commanders in TRADOC [Training and Doctrine Command] and FORSCOM [Forces Command] throughout the Army at every single level we worked hard to make sure that we did recruit -- achieve our recruiting goals.

There were a number of innovations that helped us to achieve this goal. We increased the number of recruiters that we had in the field. We enhanced the locations that they were recruiting from to make sure that they were in the right markets. We gave them tools like laptops and pagers and cell phones to help them do their work.

We used some of our corporals, younger soldiers who could go back to their high schools, talk to their friends and peers, to young recruits closer in age to them, about what their experience had been like in the Army so far.

We reassessed our advertising strategy. We shifted our focus to do more post-high school recruiting, more recruiting on college campuses. We linked and expanded enlistment bonuses and college funds so that you could get both a bonus and participate in the college savings plan program. With all of these efforts, we had a 22 percent increase in the number of high-quality recruits, those who are both high school graduates and have high qualification test scores.

Additionally, we've taken steps to ensure that we can recruit at whatever level Congress sets the Army's end strength at by developing programs and education initiatives that position the Army as a place to which young people who are interested in bettering themselves in the education, training, leadership development opportunities that the Army has to offer can be attracted to and motivated to succeed in.

I'll just briefly mention a few of these new options. GED-Plus, the Army's high school completion program, which offers quality young people a chance to complete their GED at the Army's expense and then enlist in the Army. College First, which offers qualified high school graduates the opportunity to attend two years of college prior to joining the Army. Partnership for Youth Success, a cooperative partnership between the Army and industry, where a young soldier will receive skill certification in the Army, and preferential hiring upon completion of their service obligation, although, I would note, if they don't want to leave, they don't have to leave. We'll find another young person to take their place, and they can reenlist and stay in the Army. And Army University Access Online, our distance education program for soldiers that's going to give every single soldier who is interested the opportunity to earn a college education or technical certification while they are serving. It will give soldiers an opportunity to earn an education anywhere, anytime, online.

These programs are not only going to benefit the Army, but they're going to benefit our nation.

I want to thank our terrific recruiting team, all of our recruiters across the Army, and all of those who aren't necessarily filling a recruiting slot but who made bringing young people into the Army a part of their job. Soldiers at all levels of the Army made it their business, and we, as Secretary Cohen said, made it our top priority. And so we are grateful to General Adams -- excuse me, General Abrams and to General Hendrix and FORSCOM and to all of the soldiers through the Army. And of course we had great recruiters like Staff Sergeant James, who is a relatively new recruiter but who helped us come in over the top.

Of course, we could never have met our recruiting goals if it wasn't for the great young men and women of America who believe in serving our country in uniform. One of those great young individuals is with us today. He's our 80,000th enlistee for fiscal year 2000, Private Joseph Keith McGowen of Mineral Wells, Texas.

He's typical of the great young men and women who are joining the Army. He ran track in high school; he graduated this past May. He's been active in his church. He selected a four-year enlistment as a signal soldier, and he's going to be heading off to the 82nd Airborne Division as soon as he completes basic and advance individual training. He received a college savings plan option, in addition to a bonus at the time that he signed up. And we're grateful to him and to all the great young men and women like him who believe in serving our country in uniform.

So in closing, I want to thank again the entire Army team who made today possible, and I want to wish Private McGowen much success in his military career.

At this time, I would like to introduce to you our Vice Chief of Staff of the Army, General Jack Keane.

Keane: Thanks. Well good morning, everybody. And welcome, guests. On behalf of General Shinseki, our chief of staff, just let me thank you all for being here today, and offer my congratulations to Major General Gaddis and Command Sergeant Major Leturno and all the magnificent non-commissioned officers of the United States Army Recruiting Command.

I also want to thank General John Abrams for his leadership in this effort, and his folks at Training and Doctrine Command for their hard work and their absolute dogged determination to help get us back on track.

Those of you are not familiar with the Army's recruiting mission may be surprised at the magnitude of our task. For all three components -- the Active, the National Guard and the Army Reserve -- we must recruit a primary workforce of 185,000 every single year. What an incredible mission that is. And, of course, we made that mission this year. There is no other entity in America that has to recruit a workforce of that scale and magnitude, and of course we're proud of the quality indicators that that workforce has as well.

General Shinseki likes to say that everyone is a recruiter, and I think everyone in the Army can take a measure of pride in this tremendous effort, because it really is all about the Army. However, the men and women of USARC [U.S. Army Recruiting Command] are on point for the Army's recruiting effort, and they've done a superb job this year in helping to make our mission.

Last year, when General Shinseki assumed his office, he made recruiting his number one priority. He and Secretary Caldera set out to reverse the recent decline, and over the past year, as Secretary Caldera mentioned, the secretary initiated a number of unprecedented initiatives that redefined the way we recruit the force, and the results are obvious.

Now, and most important, we must sustain this recruiting effort to ensure that we can continue to bring motivated, high-quality soldiers into the force, like Private McGowen. And it's great to have you here, youngster, along with your mother, Ms. Wanda Benavides, from Mineral Wells. These are exciting times and you've got a lot to look forward to with basic training, AIT [advanced individual training], Jump School, and then assignment to the same organization I was first assigned to in the United States Army, the great 82nd Airborne Division. You're going to a fantastic post -- Fort Bragg -- and be around some of the best soldiers in the world, and it will change you, I think, for the rest of your life, quite frankly.

We wish you all the very best as you begin that journey. You'll have lots of opportunity to grow in your time in the Army, and you'll receive outstanding training from the best young leaders in the nation. They'll train you and you'll grow as a leader. And I can't imagine a better time to enlist in the United States Army than right now.

Again, thank you all for being here, and thank you to our great recruiters and to their leaders for what they've been able to achieve this year.

Willey: Thank you, sir. And now, if I can ask General Gaddis, Private McGowen and his family, and Sergeant Jaynes to join the secretary down here for the swearing-in.

(Swearing-in ceremony takes place.)


Willey: Congratulations, Private McGowen, and welcome to the U.S. Army.

We'll let them return to their seats now, and while they're doing that, the secretary will come up and be prepared to take your questions for a few moments. Mr. Secretary?

Caldera: Yes?

Q: Yes. Secretary Caldera, you just mentioned -- you went down the list of the things that you've been doing the last couple of years, beefing up the recruiters, giving them more gear to work with, more money for advertising.

In the context of the broader Army budget, we hear a lot about how it's a zero-sum game, although you have gotten a little help from Congress recently, some more money. Is there any kind of a price to be paid for the acceleration in your advertising and recruiting efforts? And if so, is it enough to put a crimp in spending for other things? I mean, what kind of a price is there for this?

Caldera: No. No, I think that bringing the best young people into the Army, at all levels, is very, very important, whether it's into the enlisted ranks or whether it's into ROTC and the officer ranks, because from their ranks are going to have to come the future military leaders and advisers, who may be called some day to fight and win our nation's wars, or to be the architects of those military strategies.

And so we're going to want the very best when we have to call on them.

So the investment that we make in advertising and in recruiting and in having a package of opportunity to serve and to get the training and education and quality of life that is attractive to talented young men and women is a good investment for the Army to make. And we try to balance out our program between our current readiness, our training, our quality of life, our investments in modernization for future readiness, and I think we devote some of the kinds of resources that we need to for recruiting. We of course would always love to do more, but there is a responsibility to use the resources you have in as efficient a manner as you can, so to devote those amounts of resources that will help us be effective in recruiting the force that we need to recruit.

Q: Do you -- even in rough terms, can you quantify at all how much you're -- how much the overall recruiting program costs these days, versus a year or two or three years ago?

Caldera: Well, I do not think it is significantly higher. There has been inflation in advertising costs, so you -- just to keep pace with what you're doing in advertising, you've got to spend more. And in some of the technology that we are giving the recruiters, whether it's the laptops and the CD-ROMs, of course there's a price that is related to that.

We've also tried to improve quality of life for recruiters, so they can focus on recruiting and not have to be worried about "where is my family living" or not paying out of pocket some of the costs that they have to incur as they're out there trying to connect with young people.

So there has been an increase, but I don't think it is significantly higher than it was last year. We can get you more specific numbers, if you'd like.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Secretary Caldera, I wonder if it means anything to you to have the 80,000th recruit from your home state, first of all.

And then, second, is minority recruitment up as well? Did that -- did those numbers go up, too?

Caldera: I don't think we have all the final numbers on how the distribution of the force breaks down, but I certainly would expect and would not be surprised if the numbers that we're recruiting continue to reflect the great diversity of our nation, and if we're doing slightly better in recruiting Hispanics, who are underrepresented in the Army. But we've made that part of our emphasis, to go out there and communicate the kind of opportunity we have in the Army to young Hispanic men and women, because we see them as becoming a more significant part of our force as that part of our population continues to grow in size. We're going to have to do that, in the enlisted and in the officer ranks.

And so I think that the final numbers will show that we continue to recruit a very, very diverse force, including lots of young women.

Q: The chief laid out yesterday a program on Capitol Hill of needing more money and more people. And the Army has, in fact, said on background that it probably needs about another 40,000 people. You've struggled so hard to get this far. How in the world are you going to recruit 40,000 more people?

Caldera: I think we -- we are going through a process right now of what -- of doing the analysis of what size we think the Army should be. One of the things -- I mean, I have asked this question, as to what is the optimal size for the Army, given the kinds of commitments and missions that we're being asked to perform today? And you need to do that from time to time to derive what that number should be. I think it's going to be somewhat higher than the forces today. We don't know exactly what that number is, whether it's 15,000, 25,000, 40,000. But I think we can recruit any number that the Congress asks us to recruit, and that if they ask us to recruit another 40,000 soldiers, we would do it.

And a little bit of what happened was that during the drawdown we were not replacing soldiers one for one. We were allowing more soldiers to leave the Army than we were replacing because we wanted to reduce the size of the military. And so we were maybe caught a little bit flat-footed in our game when all of a sudden we hadn't had to challenge ourselves to meet the recruiting numbers, all of a sudden you hit a year in which now you've got to recruit one for one every soldier who leaves, and you've hit a hot economy and you've hit record numbers of young people going to college. And so overnight we had to take our game to a whole different level and find new ways and challenge ourselves to find new ways to communicate the kind of opportunity we had in the Army.

And we found those ways. And we found a way to also to make it an even better experience for a young man or woman who comes into the Army by doing things like the Army University Access on Line Distance Education Program, so that we won't be competing with a record number of kids going to college, we'll give them a learn-while-you-serve option that they can do both; they can work on that education while they're serving in the military. And that's going to help us with retention as well. I think all of those kinds of things that we've put in place are going to help us recruit there.

We're also looking at other things, for example. We did a marketing study this year that helped us understand where it is that we -- both how it is that we need to communicate to young people, also within our process where it is that we lose recruits. For example, we lose recruits between the recruiter in the field who gets a young person to see themselves as a soldier, to seriously consider it as an option and to say "I want to sign up," and when they go to the career counselor, who has to give them the specific job skill that they're going to train for and what date it is that they're going to show up at basic training.

That handoff between the recruiter and the counselor accounts for a pretty significant loss in -- we might lose as much as 30, 40 percent of young people who have second thoughts, decide not to go. Well, we want to give the recruiter -- we want to eliminate the career counselor, make the recruiter the same person who, with the laptop, can sit right there in the kitchen with mom and dad and not only sell them on the Army, but tell them what training they're going to get, what date they're going to start basic training that's convenient for them. And if you eliminate that step, that increases your yield.

This is a very manageable effort in which you have to start with young people thinking "Is the military an option that I want to consider?" And then, if the answer to that is yes and you start up with the right yields, you're going to recruit the numbers. Today a lot of young people don't even start out by answering yes, and a great number of them, we're not even putting it in front of them for them to consider it. So that's why we're going to be doing a better job of communicating with younger students, and with them starting in the 11th grade.

But today our direct mail program, for example, does not reach every high school in America. That means that there are significant numbers out there who we've never even taken the first step of sending them something that says "You ought to consider the military."

Q: I hate to ask you this, but since this wasn't advertised as a single-subject briefing to the media, I'd like to ask you just a different Army question, if I might -- a big left turn here. We have -- on a different subject --

Caldera: We can do left turns.

Q: Sorry?

Caldera: We can do left turns.

Q: We have been told that the Army has decided to delay the No Gun Ri report until after the election. And I'm wondering if you are satisfied with that decision.

Caldera: The No Gun Ri inquiry has not in any way or shape ever been driven by considerations regarding the election. It's been driven by the need to do a very thorough inquiry where there were millions of pages of documents that had to be reviewed and individuals who had to be interviewed, and then the coordination between those things, which we're doing in the United States, and those things which the Korean authority and government is doing in Korea. We're at a point where the report, much of the report is being written today with some pieces of the actual substantive inquiry still being completed. And so our goal certainly is to complete that before the end of the year. What the specific date it's going to be, I'm afraid I can't give it to you.

Q: Is there any chance we would see it before the election?

Caldera: I'd have to go back to talk to our team about where we are in this process. I'm not sure that we're far enough along that that would be the case.

Staff: I think the secretary has time for one more question.

Caldera: Yes.

Q: Sir?

Caldera: Yes.

Q: The Army sounds a great deal friendlier today, frankly, than the one that I remember so fondly from my youth.

Caldera: It was a great Army then, it's a great Army today.

Q: Great -- (inaudible). Is this trend going to have to continue, do you think, to continue to bring in young people, assuming that the current prosperity is not just a mirage? Know what I'm saying?

Caldera: Well, I think that every generation of young people is different. We're in the 25th year here of the recruited all-volunteer force, so we have to meet them on their terms. Many of the same things that continue to inspire young people to be challenged, to be challenged to serve their country, they want to show their independence, that they can live on their own. They want to challenge themselves physically and mentally. They also want to know how am I going to benefit in terms of job training, marketable skills? May not plan on making the Army a career; even if they plan on making the Army a career, they're going to retire relatively early, so they want to know, How is this going to prepare me and help me provide for my family later on? What kind of quality of life are we going to have?

So we want to give them good reasons for wanting to come in the Army, good reasons for wanting to stay in the Army and, like every employer, if we create a work environment that is a positive work environment, that is a nurturing work environment -- not a -- we don't coddle them. We still demand high standards of them and they still work very hard, but it is a kind of environment where leaders care about the soldiers in their charge, and are responsible not just for them during the work day, but they care about how things are going at home and back home.

And we have those kinds of leaders in our Army today, and we stress that very much with our officer corps and our noncommissioned officer corps. I think if we create that kind of positive work climate, that people are proud to be there, proud of the work that they're doing, that we will recruit them and we will be able to retain them.

And I think we're doing that, and I think that we're not only making our recruiting goals, but we had record reenlistment last year, record reenlistment this year. And what that tells me is that we've got a good product; that they're staying because once they've come in the door they've found out they like what they're doing.

And so our challenge is to bring them in the door. Today we've shown that we can bring them in the door.

Willey: I think we can take one more --

Q: Just based on what you've just said, you know, record reenlistment last year, record reenlistment this year; if you put it in the context of what you hear all the time -- what people are hearing back home about morale and military readiness, and that sort of thing, what's going on? Has there been a recruitment problem all this time, or why --

Caldera: No, I think if you -- you know, I think if you go out -- soldiers are working very hard, and that's a challenge. And we're trying to increase predictability for them in when they will deploy, and try to reduce the amount of deployed time that they spend. And that's one of the reasons why we need to look at the size of the Army, given the kinds of missions that we're performing.

But if you get beyond the fact that they're working very hard and you ask them how they feel about the work that they're doing, there's a tremendous sense of satisfaction in knowing that they're making a difference; whether it's peacekeeping or doing counterdrug missions in Central America or sitting out there on freedom's frontier in the Korean peninsula.

Thank you all very much.

Willey: Thank you very much.

We do have some subject matter experts who will remain behind if you still have questions. And I do believe that Private McGowen and his recruiter, Sergeant Jaynes will stay around a little while as well, if you have questions for them.

Thank you all very much and have a great day.

Q: Thank you.


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