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Special Briefing on Army Recruiting Results

Presenters: Thomas E. White, Secretary of the Army
September 05, 2001 2:30 PM EDT

Tuesday, September 4, 2001 2:30 p.m. EDT

(Special briefing on Army recruiting results. Also participating were Victoria Clarke, assistant secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; Maj. Gen. Dennis D. Cavin, commanding general of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command; Maj. Gen. Larry Gottardi, chief of Army Public Affairs; and Private Rodrigo Vasquez III.)

Clarke: We have a very busy day here, so -- the Army's got a great presentation. And so without further ado, I'm going to turn this over to General Gottardi, who will fill you in on what's going to happen. General?

Gottardi: Thank you, ma'am.

Good afternoon. As you all know, I'm General Larry Gottardi, Army chief of Public Affairs. As you also know, today is the first day of the last month of fiscal year -- we have a clean-shaven Jamie McIntyre. Good for you, sir.

Q: Yes. I have no reports today. (Laughter.)

Gottardi: Anyway, it's the first day of the last day (sic) [month] of the fiscal year, and we've got some really great news about a recruiting milestone for the Army. And today we'll have remarks from Secretary White and Major General Cavin, who is the commanding general of the United States Army Recruiting Command.

And now it's my pleasure to introduce the 74th Army secretary, the Honorable Thomas White.

White: Thank you. Good afternoon. Thanks for coming.

I'd like to extend a very, very warm welcome to two of the Army's newest recruits. And in fact, they're going to be brand-new, right here before your eyes.

First of all, Mr. Rodrigo Vasquez III. Pardon me. Stand up a second. This young man hails from the San Antonio area of Texas, and he has signed up to be an airborne Ranger in the United States Army. Bravo. (Applause.) It's good to see you.

And Mrs. Nathalie Legerwood. She is a high school English teacher, ninth and 10th grade, from the Baltimore School District, and she has signed up to join the Army Reserves. Congratulations. (Applause.)

And welcome to their family and friends as well. I'm glad you could all join us on a great day for the Army.

We're also fortunate to have representatives from the U.S. Army's Recruiting Command and our marketing partners here today. A big welcome to all of you.

I'm pleased to announce today that the Army has achieved a hundred percent of its active component-recruiting goal for fiscal year 2001. And the Army Reserves and the Army National Guard -- General Plewes representing the Reserves, General Schultz representing the Army National Guard -- are on track to meet their recruiting goals later on this month.

I am also very pleased to announce that we have achieved 100 percent of our overall reenlistment goals for fiscal year 2001 for all three Army components -- active, Reserve and Guard. These are remarkable achievements and a testament to the effort of a number of people and organizations. I mean, think about this. The Army accesses 75,800 people every year. There is not a corporation on the face of the Earth that comes anywhere close to that kind of manpower recruiting on an annual basis, not to mention what we do in the Guard and the Reserves, not to mention what we do in retention. So that is a wonderful achievement.

The Army's recruiting command, our dedicated and highly professional recruiting force, work so hard to help us attract our fair share of America's best and brightest, and two of them are with us here today. Our recruiters are the vanguard of the entire Army of motivated missionaries. I like to say I'm a recruiter; the chief is a recruiter. We are all recruiters in the "Army of One." We're out spreading the good word, recruiting in big cities, small towns, wherever they can appeal to great young Americans who want to join a winning team, the United States Army. So I'd like to congratulate all the members of the Army's recruiting command for their tireless efforts in helping us achieve our phenomenal success this year.

Secondly, we'd like to recognize our great marketing partners, including the Leo Burnett Company of Chicago, creating true believers for the Army, the big idea, the "Army of One," the shift of the advertising campaign way from "Be all you can be" and towards "Army of One," something that got a great deal of debate and attention at the time it was done, and a lot of people who weren't quite sure that we crazy people were headed in the right direction. Well, I tell you, the proof's in the pudding. You either make the numbers or you don't. And we have exceeded those numbers in the "Army of One" campaign. It's working.

The Manning, Selvage and Lee public relations firm helping us reach key influencers with the Army message. The Chemistry web agency leading the way with cyberrecruiting on our innovative goarmy.com website. And I'll tell you what. I'll bet you all that in the space of 10 years, the vast majority of Army recruiting will be web based and the recruiting activity as we know it today, like so many other activities in our lives, will be -- what's the fancy MBA term? -- disintermediated -- and people will punch straight into our website, they'll select school seats, they'll sign up, and the first time we'll see them is when they show up at a reception station. I'll quote you some numbers today that justify, I think, my prediction.

Cartel Creativo, appealing to America's growing Hispanic population, and young Mr. Vasquez here is a good example of that. And Images USA, reaching out to African American interests in serving in the Army.

It is vitally important to us that the Army look like America, and it absolutely does from top to bottom.

Together these people have helped us transform recruiting through the completely integrated "Army of One" campaign.

We must also recognize the very positive support we've received from the private sector, such as the mutually beneficial Partnership for Youth Success program, where we've established between the Army and 13 companies so far. In this program, a young person signs up for the Army, they go in for their term of enlistment, and the corporation, on the back end, guarantees a place of employment when they've finished with the Army. That's a tremendous program, and we have some very, very large sponsors who are involved in this, and we hope to see it increase in the future. Young people who join the PaYS program while enlisted in the Army will gain valuable skills and experience and have a solid opportunity for employment with these participating companies after serving their country.

We've also reached out to veterans' organizations and received their diligent assistance in our efforts to reconnect the Army with America. Likewise, our collaboration on upcoming movies like "Black Hawk Down," which will be out soon, Ridley Scott directing; "We Were Soldiers Once, and Young," Hal Moore's book about his experiences in the Ia Drang Valley in Vietnam, another which will come to the screen shortly; and along with our tie-in to HBO's "Band of Brothers" television series promises to raise the awareness and spark new enthusiasm and appreciation for United States Army soldiers and veterans among young adults throughout America.

And, of course, we continue to receive vigorous support from the Army's leadership, active, Reserve, and National Guard at every level. The Guard and Reserve are present in over 30,000 communities across our country. They are, as much as any organization, the country itself, and we take advantage of that.

Put it all together and you can see that we've got a very successful effort underway to ensure that America's Army remains fully manned to accomplish its mission, and that's exactly where we are today at 480,000 active end-strength, and we will close out the year in the best shape we've been in a long time.

Now let me take a moment to detail for you just how effective the "Army of One" campaign is. As of last week, the total number of recruiting leads this year is 530,616. That's 95,000 more leads than last year. That equates to a 21 percent increase in leads year-to-year, 2000-2001. And a lead is somebody that's checked in and passed their tests, so there's a highly -- it's highly likely that we'll have a very, very good shot at recruiting them and actually signing them up. In fact, we have generated more leads to date this year than we did for fiscal years '97, '98 or '99.

Internet activity at goarmy.com -- which is an award-winning web site, by the way -- is up 238 percent with an average of 26,000 visits per day this year. And Internet leads are up 81 percent over last year. The key to the future, just like it is in the private sector and anyplace else in our society, is Internet-based activities. It's a lot cheaper; it's a lot more efficient for everyone. And we're coming on strong in that area.

The ultimate measure affecting us, the number of contracts directly attributable to leads, jumped 43 percent since fiscal year 2000. I might also point out that although the 2001 active Army mission is slightly less than the year 2000 -- 75,800 versus 80 -- our recruiting force still provided over 1,100 more contracts this year to date than they did last year.

Building upon this success we will enter fiscal year 2002 with a very robust delayed entry pool: a total of 18,000 recruits that are already in the queue with signed contracts. Now, in previous years people used to borrow from that delayed entry program in order to make the year-end number. This year we made the year-end number, and we have sustained the delayed entry program at an extremely high level. So we're in very robust condition as we look forward to next year.

So ladies and gentlemen, it should be obvious to all of you that "An Army of One" is working. I keep telling the old guys like me who are a little concerned about the non-traditional message that we're not recruiting you, we're not recruiting me, we're recruiting the kids that watch Buffy and the Vampire Slayer. That's what we're recruiting. (Light laughter.) So go ask your son or daughter or your grandson or granddaughter what turns them on, and that's where you're going to find the Army, because that's what we're looking for. It's what we call a long-term big idea about essential Army values of personal commitment and teamwork. "Me" becomes "we" with "An Army of One." But you don't have to take my word for it. We have confirmation of our success by Millward Brown Company, a company which tracks a broad range of corporate advertising campaigns.

According to that company's statistical analysis, "An Army of One" is significantly exceeding the benchmark average for new ad campaigns, which is truly great news.

But we can't rest on our laurels. There are many challenges ahead as America's demographics continue to evolve. For example, we're already recruiting from the leading edge of an 80 million-member generation known as the "Millennials" or "Generation Y" -- young Americans born in the last 20 years of the last century. They are an interesting demographic and hard to stereotype. They're smart, they're full of hope and ambition, they have mastered the Internet and they collaborate well and have the desire to really make a difference versus just drawing a paycheck. We intend to give them just that opportunity. They've also got very high expectations of their employer, and they're not afraid to job hop until their expectations are met. We accept that challenge.

So even as we celebrate a tremendous accomplishment for the U.S. Army, there is no rest. Like I said, we have to bring in 75,000 people, or north of that number, every year. So it's always going to be, "What have you done for me lately?" Dennis, remember that. (Laughter.) We have work to do, important work, and we've just gotten the people to get it down.

Thank you all. And congratulations again to our new recruits, who we're going to swear-in, right in front of you, and the entire Army recruiting team, of which I am proud to say I am the senior member.

Thank you. (Applause.)

Gottardi: Okay. And now we're going to swear-in the 75,800th active-duty recruit, Mr. Rodrigo Vasquez III, from San Antonio, Texas. And joining him will be Secretary White, Mr. Vasquez's mom and dad, and his recruiter, Staff Sergeant Chris Stovall of the Recruiting Command, San Antonio Battalion.

White: By the way, Mr. Vasquez Senior is an Army veteran of Vietnam. So we're proud to have an Army combat veteran here with us today.

Cavin: All right, you ready to do this? I know you are. Anybody that signs up to be a Ranger, Airborne, has got to be ready for a simple little oath. It's my pleasure to administer you your oath of enlistment in the United States Army, so please raise your right hand and repeat after me.

(Recruit is sworn-in.)

Congratulations. You are our 75,800th enlistee. (Applause.)

White: Congratulations.

Cavin: Well thanks to each of you for being here today. Secretary White, Secretary Brown, Secretary Clarke, General Schultz, General Plewes, General Gottardi, fellow recruiters, of which, if you'll remember, the secretary said each of you are, and I'm glad to hear that. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Today is truly a great day to be a soldier or a recruiter. Success is indeed a grand event for us in the Army Recruiting Command, and it's a great day to be the newest soldier enlisting in our Army and beginning this incredible journey.

You've just shared with Mr. Vasquez one of the most powerful moments in a soldier's life. That oath of enlistment is at the core of our Army's commitment, our spirit of selfless service and of duty. Though our Army is transforming, the oath of service remains a constant bond with the foundation of our nation, the Constitution and the public it serves.

Let me add my personal thanks to those of Secretary White for the tremendous work by the thousands of recruiters, Department of Defense civilians, and don't forget the families who support those individuals, who are on point for our Army every day in the recruiting business, active, reserve and National Guard. For the almost 171,000 young men and women who have chosen to join the ranks of the American GI this year, we salute you. That's from all components. It's your willingness to become better than who you were that makes today's announcement possible, and our Army strong.

I also want to recognize the parents, the friends, family members and mentors who have helped these young men and women make this important commitment. I assure you, we will do our utmost to affirm that decision. It is right for America.

Today's announcement signifies remarkable achievements: achievements as a result of Army-wide efforts. A year ago General Shinseki made it clear that every soldier was a recruiter. He knew the secret of sustained success resided in the sense of duty that each soldier shares in helping shape tomorrow's Army. Let me recognize the team contributing to today's announcement. You've already had the chance to meet now-Private Vasquez, his parents and his recruiter, Staff Sergeant Chris Stovall. They symbolize the thousands in the active component who daily represent our Army in every large town, small town, village or borough all across America. Let me also ask General Plewes and Sergeant First Class Tanya Mosley to step up, if they will, with Ms. Nathalie Legerwood; if you all would just stand where you're at. Let's give them a round of applause, too. (Applause.)

They've been in key position to the Army Reserve to achieve certain recruiting victory this month. This year's success was a team event from day one between the USAR and the active component, and we're going to cross the finish line together, sir. Hoo-ah!

Likewise, General Schultz and the National Guard Recruiter of the Year, Staff Sergeant Ben Rodriguez -- I think Ben's over there somewhere. Why don't you stand up, Ben?

(Applause.)

Represent the Army National Guard's stalwart presence in our communities and the appeal of "Go Guard." Their dedicated and committed service to what makes -- builds the bond between the citizen, the state and the nation.

We want to also recognize the great work of our retention non-commissioned officers and career counselors, like Staff Sergeant Mark Allen. And Mark represents all those great NCOs out there -- (applause) -- who have helped us achieve 105 percent of our first-term reenlistment goals. Mighty fine work. With the total efforts of this fantastic team, we have a dynamically balanced approach to maintaining our quality force.

Secretary White, General Shinseki, Sergeant Major of the Army Tilley, General Maude and the DCSPER Team have worked diligently to provide our recruiters with a competitive advantage in this demanding marketplace. We thank you sincerely.

Equal credit goes to Secretary Brown, Mr. McLaurin and the ASA M&RA family, including the work of the Army brand group, Ms. Wolf from Leo Burnett and her team, Mr. DeThorne, Mr. Lafferty, Ms. Varela Hudson, Mr. McNeil, Mr. Grossman. All have picked up their rucksack and been exceptionally talented, creative partners. And we thank you sincerely. They've helped share with America's youth the Army's story of opportunity that empowers each soldier to succeed: of teamwork and service.

The only danger in recognizing specific organizations and individuals is that time stops us from expressing full gratitude to everyone involved beyond this room. Again, the Army's recruiting success was an absolute team effort, achievable only as a result of total Army involvement and the fantastic work as a force simply known as recruiters.

Again, it's a great day to be in the Army. It's a great day to be a soldier and a great day to be a recruiter.

Thank you for your attention. (Applause.)

Gottardi: We're going to adjourn -- after we take questions, we'll adjourn down to 2D638, which is the Army Public Affairs conference room, where we'll be able to chase down any additional numbers or any questions you may have about the specific recruiting.

But as for now, the secretary and General Cavin will take any questions you may have. And we'll begin with Charlie Aldinger.

Q: Mr. Secretary, can I ask -- there's a somewhat sluggish economy. The reason why the recruiting has been very difficult for all of the armed services recently is because of the booming economy and your competition with the private sector. Has the sluggish economy and the slight growth in the unemployment rate helped you all at all in this effort? You say the number of hits you have, people coming in to inquire, potentially, has gone up 20 percent.

White: I think certainly that's a general factor. At the same time, we've taken a radically different approach to this whole thing, with a new message, a new brand, and have tuned up our approach to this generation of potential recruits. So I think it's fair to say it's a combination of them. But I like to think it's far more that we've been more effective in making our case than just the economics of it.

Q: Well, you say that you like to think that, but do you have any reason to know -- is there any way to know whether in fact this better recruiting year this year is in fact attributable to your efforts, where it's not part of the business cycle and economic cycle in the country where recruiting has been done? Is there any way to know that?

White: Dennis?

Cavin: Jamie, what we know is, looking at -- over history and over time, through a lot of research, that a .5 percent shift in unemployment generally takes about 12 months before we begin to see a dramatic impact on recruiting one way or the other. So from my perspective, looking at the 4.5 percent, we're looking at about another three to six months before we can really say, "Yes, we can attribute this percentage of our success to unemployment."

White: But tracking what he just said, that would indicate that for the year just being closed out, it probably had very little impact at all.

Yes?

Q: One more, possibly pouring water on your triumphant celebration here. Isn't this generation so large that you had a much larger pool of people to draw from, whereas Generation X, my generation, the generation that I guess just likes to get a paycheck -- we're much smaller, and so the percentage of people that you would get with us go down?

Cavin: A true statement. There's a couple of factors. First of all, about 1.4 million young American men are in the primary recruiting audience, if you will. Those others are either medically disqualified or something else. So, about 1.4 million.

We're also experiencing the highest number of individuals going from high school to post-secondary/college -- or post-secondary schooling -- about 65 percent.

So though you have an increase in the number, we also have an increase that are not, if you will, in the direct recruiting population. At the same time, we have the lowest propensity to join the armed forces in the past 10 years. So when you combine those, it's still a daunting task regardless of the increase in population. And we will see the youth population continue to climb for about the next eight to 10 years.

White: You know, it's interesting, the educational opportunities. I think the numbers are roughly the U.S. government provides over $20 billion a year in student loans. And of course, if you go back to our generation, a lot of people went in the service to qualify for the G.I. Bill. Today the government gives the G.I. Bill, effectively, with the "G.I." part. So we have to compete for people without what you would call the traditional G.I. Bill hook associated with it because the government already provides that. So that, again, is a challenging factor to us as we make our numbers and why I think it's such a great achievement when we have a year like we've had.

Q: Assuming that it is true that the marketing campaign has helped, what would you point to in that campaign to have been specifically important in increasing recruitment?

Cavin: What about 11,000 of the individuals that we surveyed told us was the Army was made up of people not like them, and that it would be this big organization that wouldn't value who they were and the credentials they brought to this very important work. But once we had the opportunity to educate them, to show them what those opportunities were, they began to understand that the Army does value you as an individual. It's also going to take that great energy and turn you into a dynamic part of an Army of One, be it the Guard, the Reserves or the active component. And they understand that. They get that picture.

Q: Was there any follow-up survey with any of the people you recruited to see how they were affected by the campaign?

Cavin: Absolutely. And we will continue to do that throughout. And what we're finding is the message, An Army of One, is resonating with today's target market, that 17- to 21-year-old male and female.

White: That's really the big idea of the campaign. And we have the CEO of Leo Burnett here and she can expound after the meeting. But all of our survey data would indicate that we've hit a home run with that particular message and it resonates with the kids.

Q: Can we ask Private Vasquez if he might let us know what he thought of the campaign?

White: Go right ahead.

(Laughter.) Come on up here. In your first day in the United States Army, we're going to put you up -- (laughter) -- put you up in front the Washington press corps without any --

Q: I'll ask you, did you see the campaign and think, "Hey, this is something cool, I want to do this," or, because your father was in the Army, this has been something you've been thinking about doing for a while?

Vasquez: The campaign helped some because being "an army of one" I think would make you feel more confident about yourself because you're just one and --

Q: What does "be an Army of one" say to you? What does that mean to you?

Vasquez: Being independent, relying on ourself. And of course you need others as team members, but just being independent and knowing you can do whatever it takes by yourself.

White: Thank you very much. (Laughter, applause.)

Thank you very much, "Corporal" Vasquez. (Laughter.)

Cavin: We've got time for one more before we have to clear out.

Q: Can you give us some historical context on this? When is the last time you all met your recruiting goals? Did you do it last year?

Cavin: Well, last year, and then 1997, prior to that.

Q: So you did it in 2000 and then 1997?

Cavin: Yes.

Q: Secretary White, a question about the end-strength. You said you're going to make your end-strength of 480,000.

White: Right, 480,000 active.

Q: How close did you come to suffering some reductions in troop forces as a result of the Pentagon's ongoing review? (Laughter.) And did that take a -- did you have to fight to keep that end-strength at 480,000?

White: Well, you know, as I talked about extensively last week, that discussion is still going on because the president and the secretary have not closed out the Quadrennial Defense Review. And while Defense Planning Guidance has been issued for the '03 budget cycle, the final decisions on end-strength and force structure are yet to be made. So we have argued our case and we'll see where the decisions are made.

Q: There was some talk along those lines two, three weeks ago, of cutting two active Army divisions and then four Guard and Reserve divisions. Is that about right? And can you give us a comment about --

White: Well, there were a lot of options considered during the summertime as we argued about the terms of reference for the QDR, and there were a number of different analyses done on a whole wide range of force structure options, but no definitive decisions have been made yet.

And I'd be delighted to turn the microphone over to Ms. Clarke, who will talk to you in more detail about when the secretary intends to do so.

Q: Excuse me, just to ask, how much you spent on recruiting this year compared to last year.

White: Yeah, sure, as the last question. Go ahead.

Q: Including advertising.

Cavin: The advertising budget was slightly over $146 million. When you roll in pay and all of those things, it's roughly around $470 million. That includes the cost to hire recruiters, to have recruiters out there, cars, all of those things.

Q: And last year?

Cavin: Last year, slightly less, just slightly less. I don't have those numbers off the top of my head.

Q: Secretary White, just a personal question about service.

White: Sure.

Q: Did you have to take a big financial hit to take this job? And if so, why did you take it?

White: The answer to the first question is yes. And the second question, because I love the Army. And with that, thank you very much. (Applause.)