DoD News Briefing with Dr. Chu at the Pentagon
BRYAN WHITMAN (Pentagon spokesman): Good morning, and thank you for joining us. This morning we have some good news to report to you with respect to the department's overall efforts in recruiting and retention for fiscal year `06. With us today to give you an overview of that is Dr. David Chu, who is the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. Joining him are the service manpower representatives for each of the services whose hard work is responsible for much of the good news that you're going to hear about today. Dr. Chu will give you an overview, and then, he's going to invite the service reps up here with him to take your questions.
With that, let me turn it over to you, sir.
MR. CHU: Thank you, Bryan. It's a privilege to be here this morning and to speak to the Department of Defense's fiscal year 2006 recruiting and retention results. These are, of course, essential to the successful functioning of this department because at its heart the military is all about people and especially our quality people. And I'm pleased to say, as you know from the press release, that in fiscal 2006 each active service met its recruiting goals. We speak often in the department about an all-volunteer force. Really, as the team to my right would remind us, it's truly an all-recruited force. People don't just walk in the door, particularly people we want to have in the military. We have to go out and seek them out and persuade them that this is a good choice for them.
And of course, people don't join the Department of Defense. They join the Army, the Marine Corps, the Navy, the Air Force or the Coast Guard, which, of course, in peacetime is in a different Cabinet department. And that's why I'm particularly pleased we have with us this morning the individuals who helped ensure that this was a successful recruiting year and a successful year also in terms of retention of military personnel.
General Bostick is the head of the Army Recruiting Command. Admiral Kilkenny is the head of the Navy Recruiting Command. General Vautrinot is the head of the Air Force Recruiting Command, and General Coleman, who will soon be Lieutenant General Coleman, is the new deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for Manpower. So he oversees the entire system from the Marine Corps' perspective.
I would urge you in the question period to direct some of your questions to them, because it is their hard work and the hard work of the people who are part of their enterprise that has brought the success, success despite a more difficult, more challenging environment, really, the department faced in fiscal 2006 than it faced in fiscal 2005, with a stronger economy, other factors as well -- all made this a more difficult, not an easier recruiting year.
It's also important to note that in terms of its own components that the Army National Guard came very, very close to meeting its recruiting goal for fiscal 2006. It's a far-improved position from where in fiscal 2005. As a result, the strength of the Army Guard is rising at the present moment. And the Army Reserve did respectably -- 95 percent of its recruiting goal in this fiscal year just concluded.
And I should stress -- because I know this has been a subject of conversation in your writings -- that these recruiting successes were all achieved against an essentially unchanged set of standards. The standards have remained the same across this period of time as a practical matter.
Equally important to the success of the armed forces is the successful efforts of the military services on retention, on persuading those who have already joined us to stay. And this is very, very important for the enterprise, because, of course, these are the people with the training, the experience that makes them effective leaders for our future. And both the active forces and, I should underscore, the Reserve formations in the United States were successful in fiscal 2006 in this regard.
The Reserves we used a little different measure. We talk about the attrition from the Reserves, which is the other side of the coin; in other words, losses and attrition for the Reserve components was in every case well within the bounds that we had established.
You might ask why. Why were the military services successful, despite a more challenging year? I'll offer you my two answers, but I invite you to address some of your questions to my colleagues here this morning.
I think there are two arguments that -- or two hypotheses that explain the success of fiscal 2006.
First, focus. Focus by the military services, putting more recruiters out there, for example, in the case of the Army and the Army National Guard.
Second is patriotism. One of the things we read into the survey results of young Americans today is that patriotism has risen to a much higher place on a list of reasons that people join the military today. In a sense, we're seeing before our very eyes, I think, the unfolding of a new greatest generation in the history of our republic.
With that, let me invite my colleagues to join me here at the podium. We'd be delighted to take your questions and respond to your issues.
Q Dr. Chu, I know you mentioned that there's an unchanged set of standards, although some standards have changed, like the Army accepting all its recruits. With the Army accepting all the recruits, with more from the lowest acceptable level on standardized testing and more waivers for past criminal conduct, how much of a worry for you is it the Army may be meeting its numbers but bringing in what some believe to be lesser quality recruits?
MR. CHU: Well, first of all, I don't think they're lesser quality recruits. Let me speak to the three standard issues you raised.
First, on so-called middle category 4, those people who score between the 10th and 30th percentile on the Armed Forces Qualification Test -- we do not, by long-standing policy/statute, take the lowest 10 percentile points distribution in any event. The standard is no more than 4 percent. The Army met that standard in the recruiting year just concluded. It is true that is some prior years it exceeded that standard. That was a choice it made, but the standard has not changed.
And as I emphasized in a conversation we had in June, there's a reason for allowing some who score in that range to join, two reasons in particular. Some people score poorly on the test because their English is imperfect. They may be terrific in some foreign language but not in English. And the Army has looked in depth at that issue as to their improvement during their period of service. Second, the test is not the only measure of capability. We all know people who don't test well; they may have superior attributes in other respects. And so we have always allowed for some exceptions in that range.
Second, to this question of waivers, I'll let each of my colleagues speak to that issue in terms of we give waivers for all sorts of reasons. Young people may have failings, maybe physical failings, maybe failings in terms of excessive debt, maybe failings in terms of brushes with the law. As a generalization, the services want to look at the whole person and ask is this serious, is this a real bar to what might be otherwise a successful period of service.
Finally, to the issue of age. The outcome, the standard here really is ability to perform, not how old you are. And looking at this audience, I'm sure there are some members who would particularly emphasize the importance of that standard. And what we have concluded as a country in a variety of fields is that as people become healthier, and health care has improved our life status and functioning, they can now do things at older ages that in previous generations we might have thought beyond reach. And I'm sure the Army's results so far speak to that result.
General Vautrinot, if you want to say a few words about standards, because you were speaking to me about this before we started, how the Air Force deals with this.
BRIG. GENERAL SUZANNE VAUTRINOT (Air Force Recruiting Service commander): Yes, sir. What we were talking about is the whole-person concept. And it's the recognition that you might have a 4.0 student that is also an Eagle Scout and has served the nation well, even though it's not in uniform, but they could have a few traffic tickets or a curfew violation. And that requires for the United States Air Force and for the other services a moral waiver.
So for those of you that have had those kinds of things that were considered minor, they are considered something that requires a waiver in our military services. The same thing with a few thousand dollars of debt. Because we want to make sure that you are focused on your job and you can, in fact, serve your country in the very best manner. So it truly is a whole-person concept when you look at each waiver individually and decided if that member can serve in the United States forces.
MR. CHU: Thank you.
General Bostick, do you want to speak this age issue?
MAJ. GENERAL THOMAS BOSTICK (Army Recruiting Command commander): I'm going to address several of those, Dr. Chu, sir. Thanks for the invite here.
First let me say, about quality, I'm not at all concerned about the quality of this Army.
It is a great Army. I've deployed with the 1st Cavalry Division to Iraq. I served over there with the Corps of Engineers. I'm very proud of these soldiers. You would be proud of them as well. Their parents are proud of them. They are proud of their service.
To get to the specifics on quality, we have met all of the standards set by the secretary of Defense, OSD, on quality, less the high school diploma graduates. The goal on high school diploma graduates is 90 percent; we achieved 81 percent. The 19 percent of the others have a GED, some form of equivalency degree. Now, those GEDs are stellar soldiers. They test well. In fact, when we look at the military test that we are required to give to all of these soldiers, the average test score for a high school diploma graduate is about 58 percent. The average test score for a GED is about 54 percent. The average test score for the 17- to 24-year-old in America is about 50 percent. It's a normed test, so it's about 50 percent. So the quality of our Army, based on the metric of testing, is very high, and they're doing very well.
I would say to the age, sir, one of our recent graduates, a combat engineer, 41 years old, went to basic training and AIT and was the top graduate in both of those schools for physical, mental capability. He is a great soldier, and I think we want him in our Army. The numbers are small. They're on the margins. We're talking about 40 or so soldiers that we brought in that are higher than age 40. So it's not a huge number that we're talking about in that age category, but they're making a difference. They're meeting our standards, physically, mentally and morally. So if they can do that, we think that they ought to serve.
MR. CHU: What you're also saying is that he does have recruitment forms right outside the door here when we're finished here, whoever wants to change careers. (Laughter.)
Q Can you explain the reason that the Reserve components are falling short? And I noticed the Navy is the shortest, so give a little attention to that.
MR. CHU: I'll let Admiral Kilkenny address the Navy specifically.
Each one is a different story. I think that, in my judgment, the important conclusion to draw from these numbers is both Army Reserve components -- Guard and Reserve -- did better than expected and better, in the case of the Guard, than they did last year. So this is despite a heavy use of these elements of our force.
I think it's also interesting that the -- and maybe General Coleman will speak to that, if I could let him do so -- the Marine Corps Reserve continues to meet its goals, which again, given the use we've made of the Marine Corps Reserve, is, I think, an endorsement of this generation's willingness to serve the country.
So there's a different story behind each one. I wouldn't put too much into the fact that the Guard fell short by a few hundred people. That's partly a matter of timing and how you want to arrange the enlistment pool. My sense is this is a strong result in a challenging run for the Reserve components.
I don't know if you want to speak to the Navy Reserve --
REAR ADM. JOSEPH KILKENNY, U.S. NAVY (Navy Recruiting Command commander): Yes. The Navy Reserve -- we've achieved 87 percent of our goal this year.
But I will highlight the fact that so many initiatives we've put in place in the last six months, the last two months of the fiscal year we met our Navy Reserve goal for those two months.
And I am optimistic that some of those initiatives that we put in place looking for prior service, bringing in new people to go to boot camp and serve in the reserves, they're going to pay big dividends for the Navy. So I'm happy to report that we did have a little speed bump in the road, but I think we've done some things. The recruiters have been out there. We have worked really hard at one force, active/reserve. It's not active and reserve, it's one force. You're just either in the active portion or the reserve.
And I just took over the reserve recruiting within the last few years. And my recruiters -- like anything else, it's a challenge to get your arms around that, but they're doing tremendously well out there. They know that both active and reserve are important -- just as important as our mission because it's about the total force. So I'm pretty optimistic where we're going with the reserves.
MR. CHU: General Coleman, you want to say a word about the Marine Reserve?
LIEUTENANT GENERAL (SEL) RONALD COLEMAN (Deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs for USMC): Yes, sir. Thank you.
Thank you all for being here and thank you for inviting me. And I'll say just a little about that.
But first off, I'm the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs, new in this slot. And General Tryon, who is our commander of Marine Corps Recruiting Command, he and his leadership are on the West Coast at a conference now, so I'm just standing in for him. If the questions get real hard I'll call the bullpen in and I'll get some help from there.
But as far as the recruiting of our enlisted Marines, it's on the shoulders of great men and women who do their darndest to bring in the best possible we can bring in. And we have -- we have done extremely well in both -- on both sides, active an enlisted -- or, excuse me, active and reserve. And it's all on the shoulders of great men and women who want to be a part of the Marine Corps team.
MR. CHU: Sir.
Q Two things. Can you address, especially the ground services, the start pools for the -- fiscal '07? What are those levels?
And also, how do you characterize the difficulties if either the ground services in particular would increase in size over the next year or so or continue to?
MR. CHU: I'll -- again, I'll let my colleagues offer some specifics on both the questions that you raise. I think the Marines especially believe that we could recruit more people if that were the nation's decision in terms of size of the armed forces. And I think the Army picture is more optimistic at this point than it was exactly one year ago.
And I do think it is important to note that the Army has a modestly larger so-called delayed entry program number starting fiscal 2007, the year -- fiscal year in which we said that it did starting fiscal 2006. I don't want to overdue that. We think 2007 for all services will be a challenging year again, but the signs are pointed in a(n) improving direction. I think Admiral Kilkenny spoke to that also in terms of the Navy Reserve recruiting.
All the reserves -- and I'm going to come back just in a minute to your question -- what counts is how well staffed are the Reserves. The recruiting is one element in that equation, but the other element is retention, and all the Reserve components have been running better retention than planned or less attrition than planned. And that explains the Air Guard, which did not make its recruiting number, but I expect will make its end strength number -- (inaudible) -- list because they have had very, very fine retention, low attrition experience in the last several years.
General Bostick, did you want to speak to the Army's recruiting position for 2007?
GEN. BOSTICK: Next year will be another challenging year. This past year was challenging, but we made it for a number of reasons. But the entry pool certainly is a key factor, the number of soldiers that we have that have already signed up and decided they want to serve in the Army. This year it's going to be about 12,000 for the active Army and 2,700 for the Reserves. Those numbers are a bit lower than we'd like, but they're higher than previous years. Last year, it was 9,900 for the active Army and just a couple hundred shy of that for the Reserves, about 2,500.
So what we'd like to do is normally have about 25 percent. So on the 80k mission, we would like to have about 20,000 in the entry pool. But 12,000 is a lot more than 9,900, and we feel that we can make it because of the systems that we've put in place this year, principally the soldiers. As Dr. Chu mentioned, we've increased the number of soldiers that are out there by 30 percent in the last 18 months. So there are 1,200 more recruiters that have this mission of recruiting for the United States Army. They are trained. About 50 percent of them are combat veterans. So out of the concern that parents have and applicants have about the war and about the challenges of that, we have soldiers that have been there, and they can talk to their experiences.
MR. CHU: General Coleman, will you say a word about the Marines -- (off mike)?
GEN. COLEMAN: Our thought pool for `07 is 42.7, which is almost exactly what it was last year. Last year, it was 42.8. So we're well on our way, and again, as I said before, it's all in the -- on the hands of the recruiters that are doing a good job. But we are about exactly where we want to be at this point.
Q Dr. Chu, given the fact that you have 145,000 troops in Iraq, and, you know, no indication in sight that that's going to come down any time soon, are you giving renewed thought to increasing the end strength of the Army and of the Marines beyond what it is now?
MR. CHU: Both end strengths are increasing, as a statement of fact. The Army, in terms of internal planning paradigms, was long ago given by the secretary authority to increase to 512,400 active end strength. The Marine Corps likewise has been growing. It's approximately 181,000 now, which is above where we thought we might be last year at this time. So the fact situation is they are growing.
Now, how much, should it be more, that's a question that's always going to be debated in the department. I think it's not always the right way to think about the problem. What counts in terms of being effective for a military force are the capabilities that we deploy. You may be able to deploy those capabilities with fewer people in uniform in the force as a whole. And all four services are working to look at can we take some positions we have traditionally filled with uniformed personnel and migrate them to a civil status, either federal civilians or contract provision of those services.
The department has converted something over 20,000 slots so far in this way. We're looking at probably at least another 30,000 more. A significant number are in the medical community, where we have concluded we don't have to have quite so much capacity in uniform with the kind of practices we're using today.
So the bottom line I offer is that I don't think end strength is the best measure of military capability. The best measure of capability are more direct metrics that deal with what can we do on the ground, and then the intermediate question is, well, how many people do you have to have in your whole enterprise, some of which are uniformed, some of which are federal civilians, some of which are contractor, in order to produce that result.
Q So can you say what you think the end strength will have to grow to to deal with the requirements that you're facing?
MR. CHU: This was a subject -- not in terms of end strength, again let me emphasize, but in terms of capacity -- that the Quadrennial Defense Review addressed. And it set for all the services a view of the future in terms of the capabilities they should be able to deploy. And the active Army, part of that answer was 42 modular brigade combat teams, and for the Army National Guard, 28 modular brigade combat teams for the future. Part of our job is to fill those out, make sure they're re-upped, make sure they're properly staffed.
Do we need more or not? That's a question that's going to be reviewed every time the department goes through these cycles.
But that document, that -- every four-year review set a standard for the department so that it gives us capacity to deploy the kinds of numbers that you described.
Q Dr. Chu -- and I wonder if each one of you would like to address this -- can you talk about what is the most common type of waiver that's being issued now, and how does that compare with recent years?
MR. CHU: I'll let each of my colleagues answer in turn.
Let me give an overview. The answer is going to differ for each service. Each service sets somewhat different standards in this regard, and so I think one does have to look below the stubs on the table that say, you know, waiver for medical reasons to ask, okay, what's inside that number?
And let me just give you a homely example on the medical front. Most National Football League players -- in fact, I think you would be stressed to find a National Football League player who could pass our body mass index standard. They are too big relative to their height. No one would suggest that they aren't physically fit. So the Army in particular is looking at a variety of alternative measures in which to deal with this question, well, what size should you be?
GEN. BOSTICK: Sir, I'm -- we do authorize waivers. As a macro entry point here, let me talk about the qualifications of the 17- to 24-year-olds that enter the Army or the military.
Less than three out of 10 are qualified, fully qualified, meet all the qualifications to come into the military. I don't know that that's known by everyone. 44 percent do not qualify for education and aptitude. Another 54 percent do not qualify for moral reasons or medical reasons. So when you look at the Army -- and I'll talk '05, and we're gathering the data for '06, and we'd be happy to provide that to you -- but we shipped 93,000 soldiers to basic training in '05. Of that, we had to do waivers on 11,500. And the way that broke down within that 11,500, about 47 percent was for medical reasons; about 47 percent were for moral reasons; and about 6 percent were for drug and alcohol issues. In the moral category, which is the concern, 88 percent were for misdemeanors. They were for small-time issues -- curfew violations, drinking underage, many happening at an age of 14, 15, 16.
We're doing the right thing, I think, in the police force, and a number of children in school that are carrying pocketknives are getting in fights -- a number of them are having to go and answer to the courts. The police are charging them, and we're having to deal with that, so we do do waivers. If you're in that group of misdemeanors, then that waiver can be approved by a battalion commander, a lieutenant colonel in our Army. Those 12 percent that are serious criminal misconduct are going to a general officer like me or my deputy.
And so we take this seriously. We think we have a very sound system on waivers, and we work it every day. But a lot of these young men and women have made a mistake somewhere in their life, they have overcome that mistake through demonstrated performance, both in school and in their jobs, and they're serving our nation well in the Army.
MR. CHU: Next question. Sir, go ahead. Sir.
Q You've shipped -- you ship an awful lot of folks, Dr. Chu. How many of them actually finish their basic training or their advanced individual training?
MR. CHU: One way to look at this is for the department as a whole -- each service varies on this metric -- about two-thirds finish the first term of service in a, quote, "normal fashion." So about one-third do not. Those numbers of what you might call a turnover number is actually better, I think, than most private sector firms enjoy -- remembering that a term of service is typically three or four years in length. Of those losses, the one-third who don't finish normally, about half occur in the first six to 12 months of service during the training period.
It's an issue for each of the military services. Each are -- would like to keep that attrition within bounds. You can have attritions both too high -- in other words, we lose people that you should have retained -- and your attrition is too low, you keep people that you should have let go. And so the challenge of each military service is to find the balance between those two.
The Army recently has brought its attrition number down. Part of it is changing the nature of how it treats people in basic training -- less shouting at everyone, in essence. In other words, some of you may remember from an earlier generation as being the modus operandi, but there's considerable work, both for the military and for police academies that that technique, however much it might satisfied from the shouter's perspective, really isn't the best way to shape young people for the future.
Q I was wondering if the folks from the branches could tell me and perhaps anecdotally if there were parts of the country that you saw any significant changes in either surges or decreases in retention or -- and separately, if, forgive me for not knowing this, where it can get breakouts -- regional breakouts if you keep them of retention goals and in my case in California.
MR. CHU: We don't keep -- (inaudible) -- to go and look. I don't think we keep records of retention necessarily by location, partly because military personnel may choose a home of record that's not necessarily where they started out from. So it's not clear what those choices mean in the long term. We do keep records of where the recruits come from, and I'll offer a generalization and invite maybe General Coleman to speak to that from the Marine Corps perspective -- their experience. We do find for the department as a whole norm to the size of the population of 17- to 24- or 25-year-olds, that we recruit fewer, proportionally, from New England and the upper Midwest and more, proportionally, from the other regions of the country.
That's not how we'd like it to be. I don't want to overdo those differences, but they suggest that we don't have as much traction in terms of recruiting in those regions. You can advance a number of hypotheses as to why that's true. One of the things we're going to do in the department is advocate for steps that put us on the map, put us out there, so to speak, in those regions in a better way.
We do know, whatever young people say to their parents or their coaches or their counselors at school, they actually do listen to those older advisers. And we are aware from our polling results that there has been a circular decline that antedates September 11th, 2001, there's been a circular decline in the willingness of those advisers, those "influencers" -- the term that my colleagues often use -- to recommend -- to support military service by young people.
That's a serious national issue. And so to the poster the Army likes to use, that goes, "We're at war. What are you doing?" I would urge everyone, parents, coaches, counselors, et cetera, to at least be supportive when a young person comes in and asks about the prospect of military service, because it is our country, it is our nation's military force, and it is critical to the security of our people in the long run.
General Coleman, do you want to speak to that regional issue from your perspective?
GEN. COLEMAN: I thought I'd first, sir, if I could, speak to the hindrance or the obstacle, and because I am not a recruiter, but I like to use myself as an example in this instance. And Dr. Chu is 100 percent right when he talked about the, in my opinion, the Northeast.
I have a brother just a little younger than me that's up in Rhode Island, and his son, Curtis, has wanted to be a Marine since he was in seventh grade. My brother and sister-in-law forbid him to join the military even after high school. I don't know that when you become of age you can be forbidden, but certainly the enhancers to remain in college were much more than to go in the Marine Corps.
Finally, this past month -- excuse me -- September, Curtis graduated from boot camp, and he's as happy a Marine as you can find. But I asked him what took him so long, and he said, "My parents felt that they're all for a strong national defense, but someone else's kid should do it, not theirs. And that's my brother, and I love him and I love my sister-in-law, but they're just -- and that is the greatest hindrance. And I think if we can get parents on board, whereas my parents saw where it was a way out and a way to better yourself, my brother didn't feel that way.
I can get information to answer the other question on the areas. But I would say Dr. Chu is correct in that it is tough up out of the Northeast. But I'll point out that I have an enormous number of friends from the Boston area, and it seems to me when you get a recruit from that area and they get to boot camp, they're in for the long haul.
MR. CHU: Yes, sir.
Q Dr. Chu, along the lines of what the general was just talking about, some resistance to recruiting -- can you tell us about "Army Strong," how that is expected to affect this, why has it been chosen to replace Army of One? How do you think this is going to work? What's it supposed to convey?
MR. CHU: I'll let General Bostick answer that question, if I may.
I am pleased the Army is, as we all should be, looking at its advertising program. Advertising turns out to be one of our very effective tools in recruiting. We need to let people know that we want them and we want particular attributes and there's something for them in military service.
The "Army of One" slogan was appropriate for its day. The Army has clearly concluded that it needs a new approach. There's always going to be a transition. People loved the last motto -- I remember that, when the "Army of One" came about. There was a great deal of grieving, particularly among older people like myself with the prior motto which had been with the Army for 20-odd years.
GEN. BOSTICK: Well, we're real happy with "Army Strong." We have a new advertising agency, McCann Worldgroup, and I think this is going to build on "Be All You Can Be," "Army of One," and now "Army Strong."
You know, there are some things that fundamentally just don't change in the Army. You can change the ads, you can change the commercials, but our soldier, first and foremost, is at the core of the United States Army, and what that soldier does while he's in the service is he becomes stronger every day, and he becomes stronger through his training, through the teamwork, through his personal experiences and through the shared values that he has with the members of his team. That's one thing that will not change.
Also what will not change is his commitment to serve the nation, his commitment to serve the nation and be part of his community, make his community better and really to make this nation better. So we thought it was the right thing to do. It was the time to do it. It is our tag line, our signature. When you think about "Army Strong," you'll think about soldiers and what they represent.
STAFF: We have time for maybe one more.
MR. CHU: One more question.
Ma'am, it's yours.
Q Yes. Maybe for General Bostick. Can you talk about the challenges you face in recruiting Special Ops Forces, especially with private contractors coming in and offering a lot of money, and how you've been able to try to meet those challenges in terms of numbers and other things?
MR. CHU: (Off mike) -- also Admiral Kilkenny, because the Navy has an equally important challenge there.
Q (Off mike.)
GEN. BOSTICK: We'd be happy to provide you the statistics on how we're doing, but we are doing very well in the Special Operations category.
What we've done is created our own battalion to do recruiting just for Special Operations. And they operate out of Fort Bragg, but they're spread all throughout the nation. I have 41 battalions that recruit for the United States Army for regular enlisted force, and then we have five that do the medical recruiting, and we have one battalion that we have stood up to do Special Operations-type recruiting. And they have met their goals for the year and they're doing very well.
So we see next year as a very good year for Special Operations, a very important area for us, and we're working that one diligently.
MR. CHU: Admiral, do you want to speak to the SEALs?
ADM. KILKENNY: Sure. Recruiting Navy SEALs is my number-one priority. We are trying everything we can to contribute to the GWAT. The Global War on Terrorism is very important. As you know, being a Navy SEAL, much like the other services in their special forces, it's a challenge and you just can't bring in anyone off the street to participate in that. We have made tremendous strides.
And the physical requirements, obviously, to be a Navy SEAL are very high, and we have done a great amount of work in bringing in folks and getting them physically fit, in better shape than they even are when they come into the recruiting station, so when they go to boot camp and they go to BUDS for SEAL training, that they can succeed. We've almost improved the number of people passing the physical standards test by 66 percent in the last three or four months. So it's key to anything else you do in special forces.
You have to be -- where I think we all need to go is psychologically how do we bring people into special forces, because clearly, it takes a certain type of person to be willing to go out and do what they do day in and day out. And I know we're all looking at it in Department of Defense. I know the National Football League, as Dr. Chu says, has a psychological evaluation on folks, and I think we're even looking at that in the Navy, what sort of psychological test can we administer to think somebody can succeed. And we've already administered it to the BUDS and some of the SEALs that are out there right now to see if we know what they're thinking so we can go out and recruit that specific type of person. But it is my number-one priority, and I think we're doing better at it all the time.
MR. CHU: I'll ask General Vautrinot -- (inaudible) -- the Air Force, because as I think you all know, you've celebrated some of the most heroic examples of Special Operations individuals have come out of the Air Force community. General Vautrinot?
GEN. VAUTRINOT: Yes, sir. We are very proud of our battlefield airmen. We were 100 percent last year in bringing folks into those specialties, the para-rescue jumpers, the combat control teams. And the one thing that our sister services have pointed out is exactly correct, they need to be the right kind of person to do that job, both physically and mentally.
And we've been successful in bringing those folks in, in part because now they know what those jobs are about. In our "Do someting amazing" campaign, for example, we feature those folks doing their job every day and talking about it. And in much the same way, we've been able to tell the influencers that it's not just about doing those jobs in combat, it's also about doing those jobs in humanitarian environments and during crisis, as with Katrina. So those same skill sets transfer across the board and they're absolutely essential.
MR. CHU: Thank you, ma'am.
Thank you all very much.
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