New Incentives, Marketing Aim to Attract Military Recruits
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jun. 10, 2005 The Army hopes to introduce new incentives to attract recruits while working to educate parents, teachers and other adults who influence young people's decision to enlist about the long-term benefits of military service.
Army leaders hope to boost enlistment bonuses to help jump-start sagging recruiting rates, according to Bill Carr, acting deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy. They also hope to introduce a new benefit that helps soldiers purchase homes.
The incentives, if approved by Congress and signed by the president, would not apply to all soldiers, but will be "selectively applied" depending on the circumstances, Carr explained during an interview today with the American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel.
The current enlistment bonus is $20,000, the rate introduced in 1999. The version of the fiscal 2006 Defense Authorization Bill under consideration in the House of Representatives proposes raising this figure to $30,000. Carr said the Army is "hopeful we can do even better than that."
Also under consideration is pilot program that would pay up to $50,000 in mortgage costs for recruits who enlist for eight years of duty, Carr said.
Carr said this concept is popular among potential recruits, but resonates particularly well among adults who influence their decisions regarding military service.
Army officials express concern that these "influencers" are steering young people away the military over concerns that they'll be deployed to Iraq or elsewhere in harm's way.
In response, the Army has launched an information effort to help turn them around and demonstrate that the military is "a good foundation to build the rest of your life on," Carr said.
Television and magazine ads directed to these influencers emphasize the educational and personal growth opportunities the military provides.
"The way we represent ourselves has shifted," Carr said. "In the past, we talked to youth about the advantages of them joining the service. But the message has changed more toward why it makes sense for your son or daughter to serve in the military today and ... what's in it for them."
The message doesn't minimize the possibility that recruits may go into combat and face danger, Carr said. Instead, it focuses on "the certainty of what the military has to offer," he said.
When comparing the two, "it's a wonderful calculation," Carr said.
Carr said it's too soon to tell how the new ads or the introduction of shorter-term enlistments have affected recruiting.
The Army began offering a 15-month enlistment option last month that gives recruits in 59 different specialties a choice of following military duty with service in a program such as AmeriCorps or the Peace Corps. The 15-Month Plus Training Enlistment Option was first introduced in October 2003 as a pilot program in 10 of the Army's 41 recruiting battalions, but was expanded nationwide in mid-May.
He's optimistic that recruiting will pick up during the summer months, when new high school graduates begin visiting their local recruiting stations. Compared to the traditionally slow spring recruiting season, "summer is an enormously more favorable environment," he said.