DoD Press Briefing on Recruiting and Retention with Dr Chu and the Service Commanders of the Armed Forces Recruiting Command at the Pentagon Briefing Room, Arlington, VA
BRYAN WHITMAN (Public Affairs, Department of Defense): Well, good morning and thank you for joining us.
As I have been promising you, for some time, we do have with us today Dr. David Chu, who is the undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, to talk to you about the past year in recruiting and retention. He's joined today by several individuals from the military departments.
With him, he has Major General Thomas Bostick, the commanding general of Army Recruiting Command; from the Navy, Rear Admiral Joseph Kilkenny, commander of Navy Recruiting Command; from the Air Force, Brigadier General Alfred Stewart, commander, Air Force Recruiting Command and somebody that you all in here know, Major General (Select) Robert Milstead, the commanding general, Marine Corps Recruiting Command, and former chief of Marine Corps Public Affairs.
Dr. Chu is going to kind of give you an overview of the years. And some of the services will also then speak to you and then take your questions on this year's recruiting and retention efforts.
So Dr. Chu, again, thank you very much for joining us today and bringing your colleagues.
Dr. Chu: Bryan, thank you.
It is a privilege to be here this morning and to share with you the recruiting and retention results of Department of Defense for fiscal year 2008, just concluded. And I am privileged to have the four service recruiting chiefs with me, as well as Dr. Curt Gilroy, who heads the acquisition policy office in my enterprise.
I hope you have our press release, which has the basic numbers in it. I believe we've also sent to you a small booklet that contains additional background information on our recruiting/retention results and on the volunteer force at large.
People, as you appreciate, are the heart of any organization and especially so in a military organization. As is true in any open society, particularly for any organization that uses a large number of younger individuals in its ranks, we're a relatively high-flow organization, not as much as we were in the conscript era, I should emphasize, but still we recruit, between the active and Reserve components-United States, over 300,000 young Americans a year in this. I know you'll appreciate that dwarfs the workforce of almost any corporation in our civil society just in terms of the number of people we bring in every year.
We are using growth in two of the services, the Army and the Marine Corps, to build additional capacity for the United States -- more brigade combat teams for the Army, more infantry battalions for the Marine Corps, as examples.
The Navy and the Air Force are also building capabilities and capacity for the United States to meet contemporary military challenges, but they're doing it over time with somewhat fewer people than they started the decade with. They're more capital-intensive services, and the answer there -- an important part is better and newer equipment for their utilization.
If you look at the results in the press release we gave you and in the small booklet that we furnished, I would argue, when you add up the various indicators -- some up, some down, some sideways -- this is probably the strongest recruiting year we've had overall, taking all elements into account, since fiscal year 2004. It's a particularly good year for the Reserve components, which in a couple of the years earlier in this decade missed their recruiting totals.
Retention in our force continues strong. I should acknowledge the Marine Corps, having set an extraordinarily ambitious target for first-term reenlistments, did not quite get there. Nonetheless, the Marine Corps for the year ends at 105 percent of its authorized strength. So it's doing fine. The high retention target of first- term personnel was part of its effort to retain as many of the current generation as it can, building toward that larger capacity in the future.
There is some softness, I should acknowledge, in the Air Force retention. I think it's a function both of its drawdown, which has now ended, somewhat short of where we had at one point planned, as well as needing to put stronger retention incentives into its program, which it is in the process of doing.
Overall, I would argue we're starting, in terms of recruiting for the Department of Defense, in a stronger position to start off fiscal year 2009 -- we're 10 days into that year now -- than we started fiscal year 2008. I should emphasize that both in recruiting and retention we aim high.
And let me just say a few words about our recruiting standards for enlisted personnel, and most of what we discussed in terms of recruiting issues focused on enlisted personnel. I shouldn't really leave officers out. We also set high standards for officers. As one example, as a practical matter, you must have a college degree these days to become an officer in the United States military. And we hope that many officers will earn a master's degree during the course of their service.
For enlisted personnel we aim to be Lake Wobegon, as I've said in some of these sessions before. We aim the typical person to be "above average," above average in terms of accomplishment. We require every new enlisted personnel to have a high school credential. That compares with perhaps 88 to 90 percent of the public at large in the same age range that has this credential. And we really expect 90 percent to come to us with a high school diploma as the source of that credential, in comparison with perhaps 75 percent in the civil sector for the same age range.
We aim to have 60 percent score above average on our aptitude test. And we make that goal, or come very close to it, in the case [inaudible] reserve components this year. By law, we do not take anyone who scores in the lowest 10 percentile points of the aptitude test and we limit ourselves by policy to taking only 4 percent of our recruit intake between the 10th and the 30th percentiles on that test. So this is a standard in which we aim to be above average in terms of the mean and where the whole distribution is skewed to the high end of key abilities in terms of what an American youth can do.
Bottom line, I think, in terms of these results, in terms of the splendid service these young people are rendering forward in Afghanistan, Iraq and other places around the world, is a great tribute to the qualities of American youth today, their willingness to step forward, their willingness to serve, the fact that we are getting some of the best and the brightest in our society is a great tribute to the spirit that young people bring to the notion of public service today.
And that is reflected, I believe, in the high regard the American public has for our military. We printed on the back of this booklet the results of a Gallup poll that asked the same question, have asked the same question for, I think, on the order of 20 years. The military today is the most respected institution in our country and has been consistently either number one or two for the better part of 20 years, really, since the first -- (inaudible). And that is an extraordinary tribute to the people, once again, in its ranks, who are, after all, the heart of the organization.
I think General Bostick wants to say a couple words, and he'll be followed by Admiral Kilkenny, and then we'll all be ready to take your questions.
GEN. BOSTICK: Good morning. It's a great honor to be here this morning. I often say that the challenge of manning an army is not a challenge just for the Army alone, but a challenge for the nation. So this morning I'm here to say thank you to the nation for the nearly 170,000 young men and women that chose to serve in Army during persistent conflict.
We received assistance from many levels -- from the Congress, from the Department of Defense, from the Department of the Army and from all levels of command throughout our Army.
But in the end, the mission of recruiting falls on our soldiers, and they are backed by great civilians, supportive families and our partners around the country. And we thank them all today.
This year we continued our transformation and reduced mission risk across the command. We leveraged technology, used bonuses, education and other incentives. We did a better job of influencing the influencer. The Army developed creative and innovative solutions to improve our recruiting effort. I'd like to give some of those to you today.
We created a Medical Recruiting Brigade that focuses on all of our medical professionals. And for the first time since 1997, they recruited over a hundred percent of their Army Reserve and active mission.
We created a Special Missions Brigade, which focuses on chaplains and warrant officers and special operators. And we achieved a hundred percent of that mission as well.
We benefitted from Active First, where the National Guard recruits for the active Army.
We continued team recruiting in one of our brigades, where we recognized the individual talents of the soldiers and allowed them to work as teams.
We started the Army Preparatory School down at Fort Jackson, where soldiers are receiving their GEDs prior to basic training. The Army is engaged in education at all levels.
We opened the Army Experience Center in North Philadelphia, where we're exploring new forms of marketing and advertising and reaching out to the American public.
We started the Army Advantage Fund, to give soldiers the opportunity to purchase a home or to start a new business.
We also started the grass-roots advisory boards around the country, where communities lead the effort for manning the Army in their individual communities.
And we continue to engage on the Internet, reaching out through GoArmy.com and using America's Army Game, which remains one of the most popular games in the world.
I'm confident that we have a very high-quality force. I've been in this Army for over 30 years. I've served side by side with these great young men and women in combat. I've never seen a better Army. Our soldiers are serving bravely across the globe. Some of them are paying the ultimate sacrifice, to serve their nation. Each of them became heroes the day they enlisted.
This past we accomplished the mission, we improved quality marks, we increased the entry pool for next year, and eight out of 10 soldiers require no waiver whatsoever -- all of that during a period of persistent conflict.
This is a great Army. These soldiers are indeed "Army strong."
And I'll be followed by Admiral Kilkenny.
ADM. KILKENNY: Ladies and gentlemen, good morning. Dr. Chu, thank you for letting me join you today.
I'm pleased to share with you that the Navy total force recruiting team has been successful on all fronts in fiscal year 2008. As many of you know, I'm responsible for active duty and reserve, officer and enlisted recruiting. And we are green across the board, having met or exceeded our goals for all these areas. Fiscal year '08 marks the first time in five years we achieved this level of total force success.
As we discussed in last year's briefing, there was a lot of optimism about fiscal year '08 because of the groundwork laid in '07 in terms of recruiting initiatives, improved recruiter manning and synergy between our Reserve and active components. Not only did we maintain the progress gleaned last year, but indeed improved even further and exceeded expectations in several programs. Our total force team is definitely currently firing on all cylinders.
Perhaps even more important than the achievement of active and Reserve, enlisted and officer overall missions is our success in meeting many of the programmatic goals that directly impact the Navy's contribution to the maritime strategy and the global war on terrorism. Our success in Navy Special Warfare and Special Operations recruiting was unprecedented. We met or exceeded all our goals in these areas. Ratings vital to our support of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan -- to include construction battalion, corpsmen, master-at-arms -- were especially successful and finished the year well above goal and we began fiscal year '09 well ahead of glide-slope for achieving mission early again.
Not only have we been successful in filling our overall end-strength needs this year, but also provided the quality and skills necessary to fit fleet needs. To illustrate the quality point, approximately three-fourths of our recruits achieved above the 50th percentile and more than 90 percent of the Navy recruits possess high school diplomas.
We also achieved remarkable levels of diversity in our enlisted force, exceeding population benchmarks and my diversity goal was approximately 133 percent for this year.
Despite our success this year, there are always challenges to overcome and fiscal year 2009 is no different. Among them, the following: Our goal is to increase diversity among our officer corps to better represent and mentor our enlisted sailors, continue our success in medical professional recruiting despite an increase in goal.
Because we're committed to increasing diversity in our leadership ranks and recognize the need for dedicated medical support to the fleet, we're expanding the scope of our professional cadre of enlisted recruiters, my CRF Force, to start doing the officer recruiting mission.
We also intend to increase female representation in nontraditional fields. Recruiting success will directly impact the Navy's ability to meet that challenge, so we focused recruiters on that need. The results of -- our Navy recruiters achieved this year were truly remarkable, the dedication and skill of our total force team, active and Reserve, civilian, are responsible for this year's success.
I'm confident this team's challenge can overcome any challenges set before them. Additionally, we have exceeded our retention goals for this year in the United States Navy at a hundred percent. I'm looking forward to continuing this outstanding success and improvement as we tackle Navy total force recruiting goals for 2009.
Thank you all for your support.
DR. CHU: Don't go away. (Laughs.)
Q Could you address generally the perception among some that the reason that the Pentagon has been successful in military recruiting is that standards have been lowered? You mentioned the goal of 90 percent high school diplomas. There was mention of waiver. I wonder if you could address that perception generally across the board. And then perhaps General Bostick could also talk about the Army, since the criticism is most often leveled against the Army --
DR. CHU: Yes.
Q -- and that area of both high school diplomas and waivers.
DR. CHU: Delighted. First, the standards have not changed. The degree to which we met the standards has not always come up to our aspiration. That's been particularly true for the Army on the high school diploma front in recent years. And I'll let Joe Bostick speak to the Army's success this year. The Army has improved its high school diploma content.
I should emphasize everyone joining must have a high school credential, meaning they must either have a diploma or pass the GED or have sufficient college that we will -- some people go to college without finishing high school, as you know, some of our brightest young Americans -- and have sufficient college that we'll count you as having finished high school if you get far enough along down that path.
To me, the interesting result on the Army front specifically is the degree to which the Guard, which often struggled to meet this high-school diploma standard, in past years, has recruited this last year 91 percent high-school diploma graduates. So the standards have not changed.
To the question of waivers, waivers are a composite of both real waivers -- in other words, we have a medical standard, and you may not quite make it, but we will say, given the whole person, you're okay to serve -- and screens for issues that we want to adjudicate before these gentlemen will accept you for military service. And the biggest one out there numerically, typically is drug usage or acknowledged drug usage.
Now, each service has got a different way of dealing with this. We are going to move, starting 1 October of this year, to a standardized way for the whole department. But again the waiver total is a composite of real issues where we say, given the whole person, you're still good to go, and screening devices which, I think, numerically are the bulk of account in that lane.
General Bostick is going to say a word or two about the Army's success.
GEN. BOSTICK: Yes.
First, I'd say that the challenge of high-school diploma graduation is a challenge for the nation. As I started off with my initial comments, it's something that the nation has -- needs to put some work into.
Now, the Army, last year, the goal was 90 percent, just like it is in the previous years. And we achieved 79 percent, on the active Army, high-school diploma grads. This year, we achieved 83 percent on the active and 89 percent on the Army Reserve and over 90 percent for the Guard.
So we're showing improvement in that area and we're doing the kind of things that we need to, to embrace educators across the nation, so that we can work together to increase the high-school diploma graduation rate across the nation.
Q When you say that the nation needs to work on it, are you saying that fewer American students are graduating high school?
GEN. BOSTICK: I'm saying that the graduation rate, depending on what study you look at, is somewhere between 70 and 80 percent. And our goal in the military is to achieve 90 percent high-school diploma graduates. And we're shooting for that goal each and every year to the best of our ability.
But we're working with educators to ensure, through programs like March 2 Success, which was created in order to allow students the ability to take tests, in math, in science, in English, and do better on those tests.
We have some valedictorians from high schools that cannot pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test. And that's not a good thing.
So we have worked with schools with March 2 Success and in other programs where we're involved in education to try to help increase that 70 to 80 percent to a higher goal. And I think it'll be good for industry, it'll be good for the Army, our other services and it'll be good for the nation.
Q Yeah, but what about the question of waivers? You mentioned that eight in 10 soldiers didn't need a waiver. But to some they still believe that the Army is taking in a greater percentage of people who either had bad behavior or even criminal conduct because of the increased pressure to fill the ranks.
GEN. BOSTICK: We don't have the final numbers on waivers, but the way I look at waivers -- waivers is an opportunity to -- for a young man or a woman who's made a mistake in their life but they've overcome that mistake to serve this Army. Now, if it's a serious misconduct it goes through 10 different levels of adjudication before it reaches a general officer that must make the decision on whether that soldier enters the Army or not, that person enters the Army or not.
Last year, remember, we focused on the 511 felony convictions in the soldiers that we recruited. This year that number's down to 372. So we've reduced that number. But when you look at those types of charges -- I'll give you an example. Aggravated assault -- two women, fighting with each other; one takes the shoe off, hits the other person -- aggravated assault, a felony charge. Happened when they were 18. They're now 25, married, has children, has gone through some level of college. Does that person deserve an opportunity to serve their country? Those are the kind of decisions we make in this 10-step process to determine whether folks that have made mistakes in their lifetime deserve a chance, an opportunity to serve their nation.
Q When you look at the people who do that, the people that you granted waivers, when you go back and look at how they perform when they're in the Army, how do they perform? Do they tend to perform as well as soldiers who don't have waivers?
GEN. BOSTICK: Well, we looked about 17,000 -- did a study on this and looked at about 17,000 and generally they get promoted at a higher rate. They reenlist at higher rates. They receive more valorous awards. They have slightly higher misconduct, but very slightly, not significant. But overall, they perform very well.
DR. CHU: So I'll just add one story. One of your colleagues -- I won't endorse the newspaper by mentioning which one -- ran about a year and a half, two years ago, a very evocative story of a young man who had used a weapon in the commission of a crime. Therefore, that's a very serious offense. Received a waiver, has now served four years, earned the Silver Star in Afghanistan, has completely straightened himself out.
And of course, now his issue with civil society is he can't be a police officer -- it's what he wants to be -- in most jurisdictions without getting the conviction expunged, which various parties are working, which is legally possible to achieve.
So yes, we do give people a second chance. But it is, as General Bostick says, very carefully monitored and any serious incident typically has to go to a flag or general officer for adjudication. And as he summarized, what you get, I think, with the so-called waiver population is higher variance but the mean is, roughly speaking, the same.
The cases that go to flag review typically turn out better than the average enlistee, so --
Q Dr. Chu, the military's been drawing from an increasingly limited pool. How do you see the economy changing the dynamic for recruiters?
DR. CHU: We do benefit when things look less positive in civil society. I don't have the Dow Jones banner running up behind me here this morning, but that is a situation where more people are willing to give us a chance. And I think that's the big difference. People are willing to listen to us. And that's where our plea goes, and I think General Bostick emphasized this in his comments.
Recruiting is a national issue, not just an Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps issue. We would like more older Americans to be supportive of a military service choice by young people, because they do listen to them. Today, only about a third of adults, when we do our surveys, older adults, will say, yes, I'd recommend military service. Now, the good news is two-thirds or so will say I'll support it if someone chooses that. To me, the unhappy situation is a third or so aren't very supportive, even when the young person has made that -- made that choice.
So what difficult economic times give us, I think, is an opening to make our case to people who we might not otherwise have. And if we make our case, I think we can be successful.
Q Sir, the economy can be expected currently to possibly strengthen retention. Do you expect in the coming year you'll be able to spend less on retention and recruiting bonuses in order to --
DR. CHU: That becomes an empirical issue. I mean, we will allow for a healthy recruiting/retention incentives, but it's not just bonuses, per se.
I would put those numbers into context: absolutely a large sum of money; relatively a small fraction of the $115 billion that's in the military personnel account, for all pay and immediate cash payments to our troops, in fiscal year 2009, as appropriated by the Congress. So it is at the margin, an important tool. It's not the main game.
Q What do you foresee,
DR. CHU: What do I foresee?
Q Given the way the economy is going right now?
DR. CHU: My hazard would be, we will probably spend, in fiscal year 2009, because there's a lag defect of all these variables, roughly what we spent in fiscal 2008. But that's a hazard at this point.
Q Can you tell us what you'll be spending, what you expect to spend in 2009 on recruiting and retention?
DR. CHU: Recruiting bonuses in fiscal 2008, all services, were somewhat north of $500 million total. That includes all kinds. That includes loan forgiveness that we offer; probably closer to $750 million when you add everything up. I would expect we'd spend something similar to that in 2009. But only time will tell.
Q And on retention, do you have the figures?
DR. CHU: I don't, but we can get those numbers for you. But again it's a relatively modest part of the total pot.
Yes, ma'am. You had a question here in the front row.
Q Oh, well, he just asked mine.
DR. CHU: Okay.
Q Just following up on Bill.
Given the fact that you are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on recruiting and retention, is there any kind of concern that people are just joining up and they don't feel that sense of commitment, as someone who might stay in the military services as a career?
When they're just joining up for the --
DR. CHU: No. Our assurance is, no.
You really have to put this in historical context. In the draft era, we retained perhaps 10 percent of the people who came to the end of their first term of enlistment. We're typically retaining 50 percent. And we have not seen any important negative movement on retention in the last six, seven years, despite the conflict. So retention is holding up well.
Yes, the total pot is, by absolute standards, a lot of money. But you must put it in the context of our total paid allowances for fiscal year 2009, which is $115 billion. So it is absolutely a large sum of money. But relative to the total, it is a modest amount.
At the margin is to deal with particular skill areas where outside offers may be very lucrative to people. An extreme example is the nuclear field, where we face, over the years have faced continuing demands for a nuclear power plant staff.
So we have to compete with those salaries in the private sector. One of the ways we do it is with bonuses and special pay.
Other questions? Behind you. Yes, sir?
Q Sir, can you talk about retention of captains, majors and sergeants? Are you seeing any trends in that regard?
DR. CHU: The short answer is no. Officer, company-grade, in the Army, which is, of course, the issue most people are worried about, is within historic norms when you look at what the year-to-year continuation rates are. Likewise, we're seeing good retention in terms of first-term reenlistment, which is the E-4, E-5 point typically in the Army, as far as the Army and the other services are concerned. We've not seen a significant adverse trend; it's well within historic limits.
There will be variation in these numbers from year to year and month to month, but both active and Reserve component, our retention picture, on the active front, and attrition, which is what you measure in Reserve components, is well within historic boundaries.
Q Do you track those by number of deployments -- retention by number of deployments?
DR. CHU: We look at that issue. It's not the kind -- straightforward picture you might think. So in some periods we've actually seen higher retention behavior among people who have deployed once. These are young Americans who have joined in order to serve. And so in fact if they get that chance, they're sometimes more likely to stay with us than if they don't get that chance. It's not the straightforward picture people might think.
Also keep in mind that those with high numbers of deployments often have volunteered for that situation, which again is a strong predictor of -- back to your question, ma'am -- will they stay. The whole spirit of a volunteer force is totally different from a conscript force. I've had the privilege of serving a conscript force, and I've had the privilege of seeing a volunteer force in action. In a volunteer force, people join because they're interested in serving, and therefore they -- if you treat them right -- and this comes back to the issue of reenlistment bonuses -- you've got to be fair relative to their civil opportunities and not underpay them relative to what they could earn on the civil side. If you treat them right, there's a high probability they will stay. And "treat them right" is a whole package. It's pay, it's fringe benefits, it's the assignments they get, it's what the employment pattern looks like. They want some; they don't want too much.
Q You have had to go back to Congress a couple of times over the last couple of years to ask for increases in your advertising and how much you can pay for your recruiters, that sort of thing. What's your overall budget for '09 compared to the past for recruiting, advertising, you know --
DR. CHU: Let me get you those numbers.
It's a little -- back to the question asked earlier, what do I estimate the costs will be in '09? It's a little undecided, because we still use supplementals for an important portion of the cost, particularly in the case of the Army.
So the base budget, which is what Congress has appropriated, has X amount in it. We will, we will most likely ask for more in the supplemental yet to be submitted for fiscal '09.
So we will get you what I can offer as the best answer to your question that's available. But it will not necessarily be a complete picture, because we have not submitted the second supplemental.
Q Do you have any numbers for Special Operations forces, for recruiting and retention?
DR. CHU: We do. I don't know them off the top of my head, although these gentlemen spoke to them. Maybe Admiral Kilkenny wants to come back to that issue.
We're doing well at the expansion of Special Operations capability, which is significant. And to my knowledge, the Army is doing fine in terms of Special Operations recruiting, retention.
Admiral Kilkenny, you might want to speak again to the Navy situation, because that's always been a great challenge.
ADM. KILKENNY: Yeah.
The Navy, I believe, our goal this year was 1,089 SEALs. And we exceeded that goal. And surface warfare combatant crewmen -- we met that goal, exceeded it. EOD, which is very big, we met or exceeded that goal, and Navy divers.
So we've done extremely well in our Navy Special Warfare, Special Operations. And I will tell you that on the retention figures, those special forces have the highest retention rates and reenlistment rates in the Navy.
Q Admiral, are your numbers on SEALs people who actually get their Tridents or ones who --
ADM. KILKENNY: Actually the ones that I'm asked to bring in that successfully come into the Navy, make it through boot camp and go on to follow-on training. I don't have the numbers for the training itself. But I'm meeting or exceeding my Navy Special Warfare recruiting goals and Special Operations.
Right. It's been historically high. We've put some initiatives in place to get it under control.
At RTC, we have a BUD/S preparation course that they go through afterwards, which is state-of-the-art training for these young men prior to heading out to BUD/S.
DR. CHU: Ma'am, you had a question.
Q Yes. Do you have numbers in terms of what percentages soldiers and Marines who are joining who are related to military personnel, people who come from military families, and where that puts -- where that fits compared to past years? And also, is there anything that suggests that the drop in violence in Iraq affected recruiting -- had an impact in people's decision to join?
DR. CHU: On the second part of your question, does the success of the surge and so on have an effect, hard to tell. We do have -- we do ask questions about have recent events made it more likely, less likely for you to join the military, but I'm not sure that's a good indicator to respond to your question.
On the first question, let me look. We do -- we may have an answer to the question of what fraction of those joining today had a parent who served before. "Served," of course, has all sorts of breadth to it. There are people who served one term; people who served a whole career. I fear -- it's a very interesting issue, this question of -- there was one of your news magazines had on the cover "this is a family business" kind of thing. We believe that a significant fraction of those who join come from a family where someone served before.
And it comes back to the earlier issue of the effect of the economy on recruiting. In that situation, in my judgment, we get a better chance of making a positive case to the young person, because that parent has, though his or her life choice, already signaled that this is a good choice and you might think about it. And whatever they may say to us in their teenage years, young people really do, in the end, listen to their parents and often follow in their footsteps. Let me see what we can find for you that.
Q Sir, you indicated earlier there was some softness in Air Force retention.
DR. CHU: Yes, sir.
Q I wonder if you and General Stewart could address that?
DR. CHU: I'm sorry?
Q I wonder if you and General Stewart could address that?
DR. CHU: I'll be -- I'll be glad to start. General Stewart's welcome to add to it.
The Air Force was on a very aggressive trajectory in terms of bringing its end strength down, in other words, shrinking its total force. We decided toward the end of this fiscal year we were not going to shrink the Air Force manpower ranks quite so far, stop at a higher number. I think that is part of the reason we're seeing his softness.
The Air Force was not very ambitious about its retention, in a sense, coming back to the earlier question, reduced the accounts for that purpose significantly relative to prior years. Given the higher numbers we're now aiming at, that was probably a mistake. The Air Force is in the process of reversing that stance.
So I am confident, bottom line, the Air Force did not make it in fiscal 2008. It did make 99.6 percent, I believe, of its planned end strength. So overall it's okay, but it didn't make its reenlistment goals.
I don't know -- General Stewart, do you want to add anything to that?
Q (Off mike) -- at a higher number, then why wasn't retention stronger? I mean, you have more people in the force.
DR. CHU: If you're headed down, you -- as in any enterprise, you try to encourage people to depart. If midway through that, you change your mind and you want to hit higher total numbers, you start trying to retain more people. But you may have already -- people make their plans well in advance. So if the word is out that, you know, opportunities are more limited, it's not going to be as large an organization as you might have thought, turning that around takes time. And I think that's probably what happened to the Air Force.
From a financial perspective, in terms of our package versus what they could enjoy in civil society -- many of these are highly skilled individuals -- we cut back on the size of our package. The Air Force reduced reenlistment incentives and now realizes it went too far in that regard. It is basically changing that. So I don't -- General Stewart, do you want to add anything to that?
GEN. STEWART: The only comment I'd make is that retention is a broad topic, and we tend to look at it by phases rather than a total number of first-term, second-term, third-term reenlistments. And my understanding, while I'm responsible for recruiting, is that our retention figures are for specific career fields at specific points in those careers. It's not a total retention problem, but it is very targeted. And those will be addressed with targeted re-incentives.
Q Could you be specific about those areas?
GEN. STEWART: I don't know the names of those career fields, but I suspect that they're the very skilled and those that are very popular in the civilian sector.
Q Would one of them be nuclear? Would you know?
GEN. STEWART: I don't know.
DR. CHU: Sir?
Q If the new president comes in and decides to expand the Army and perhaps the Marine Corps beyond where it's going to now, how do you characterize kind of the ability of the DOD to recruit to that new, higher mission?
DR. CHU: I am confident we could recruit to higher numbers if there were a national decision to do so -- not to any number you might name. I don't want to be unrealistic about this.
I also think what's very important, if one decides to expand the size of the Army or Marine Corps, is to persuade the public at large to support better a military choice by our young people. Let me tell you one thing that particularly grates, in my judgment. There are often discussions about public service and how we could encourage more public service by our young people.
Few of those accounts and fewer of those legislative proposals ever mention the military, even though 300,000 -- 300,000 -- young Americans step forward every year and say, "I'll go." And 300,000- plus did that last year.
So we need -- and we need your help in this, I would acknowledge. We need to help the public understand the military, I would argue, ought to be the first public service choice, one of the most difficult public service choices and a great choice for young people in a volunteer force. And I think if the country takes that stand there won't be serious recruiting issues.
Q Why do you think it's not part of that public service --
DR. CHU: I'll let you and your sociologist colleagues in their columns speculate on it. Probably inappropriate for me to do so.
Q You mentioned earlier that the economy could be an opportunity for the military to make its case to the public a little bit more. Are there any plans to readjust numbers or readjust strategies in light of what appears to be a long-term economic downturn?
DR. CHU: Well, whether it's going to be long-term or not, that remains to be seen. It's not my role to speculate on that issue. I believe we will simply execute well the game plan we already have, which is to make the case to young Americans that this is an interesting choice for you; challenging, if you want to test yourself; gives you skills; gives you post-service opportunities through the GI Bill and other similar programs. So I don't see us changing our basic approach significantly. But it does give us, I expect, a wider audience, a more receptive audience to what we have to say.
Ma’am you have another question?
Q Specifically to General Milstead and General Bostick, are there any concerns about recent stresses on recruiters? Do you have any plans for additional programs to help out with recruiters who are put under a lot of pressure to get their -- meet their goals every year?
GEN. BOSTICK: I can take that on. I know this has been in the news lately. And I was just up on the Hill talking to Senator Cornyn's staff. And he has sent a letter to the secretary of the Army and we are looking at that situation in Houston now.
But I will tell you, in broad terms, we make every effort to ensure that recruiters have the right qualities to be ambassadors for the Army. So when they come from the operational Army, we make sure that they have the financial means, their marital situation is under control, that they're not going through any types of stress, their medical conditions are in good shape.
We bring them to the recruiting school and we go through that reintegration process once again.
So the first step is making sure we have the right recruiter, the right family, in the right location. And then we have a suicide prevention course that we run for all of our leaders.
It's a two-day course in the recruiting and retention school. And our station commanders, the first line of defense, they should see the red star clusters go up when their young men and women that are recruiters are undergoing stress.
The other thing I will tell you is that we have a command suicide prevention board that we're running, where we at my level with a general officer look at suicide across the command and determine if there are any systemic things that we also need to do.
We've also put authorizations for psychologists in each one of our brigades. And we're growing those psychologists, bringing them into those positions as we speak. So we've done a number of things to try to ensure that we have a good feel for the sense of stress on the soldier.
The other thing I would add is, we have a buddy system for all of our recruiters. And it started as a buddy system. If you're with a male or a female counterpart, whether it's the recruiter or the future soldier, there must be another recruiter there. And we're also using that some buddy system to make sure that they're talking to each other when they're under stress. And that system has helped us across the command.
So we're doing a number of things to ensure that we understand our soldiers, we understand the stress that they're undergoing and that we're doing something about it from the leader level.
DR. CHU: General Milstead.
GEN. MILSTEAD: Well, as far as the Marine Corps, we haven't really had a problem as such. The commandant realizing that as we began to surge to 202, one thing he did is, he gave us 600 additional recruiters. So we took 600 additional men and women, put them out there in the recruiting force, which helps, you know so I guess, to spread the load a little bit.
But another issue that's within shouting distance, I think, of stress and how it can maybe manifest is, you know, recruiter misconduct. I mean, that may be a manifestation of stress. And I would offer that the moral DNA of our Marine Corps recruiters is very, very good.
You know, the instances of misconduct are few and far between. One is too many. We value, you know, we live on the trust of the American people. And just one incident, you know, trust is a very fragile thing. But those 600 recruiters have had a good, positive impact. And I think that we're prepared to continue and to surge if required.
DR. CHU: Sir?
Q Dr. Chu, you mentioned earlier that the Army had improved its waiver numbers where only eight out of 10 -- or eight out of 10 did not require a waiver --
DR. CHU: General Bostick had that report, yes, sir.
Q That's right. What -- that's right. Pardon me. What was it in fiscal year '07? And do you think that the economy, bad as it is for so many Americans, can potentially help you improve that ratio?
DR. CHU: Let me emphasize, the -- we don't actually have waiver numbers for the whole of fiscal year 2008. Those have yet to be tabulated. We have some preliminary numbers in some areas. We have numbers through the end of June, third quarter of the fiscal year.
For the department as a whole, they're running approximately where they were in fiscal year 2007. So it's not that much of a change.
But General Bostick, you may want to add something about your knowledge of the Army situation.
GEN. BOSTICK: You know, our waiver numbers last year were very similar. I would say that we had -- overall we had -- about 18 percent of the soldiers required waivers. So when I say eight of 10, it's still about the same as it was last year.
What we'll find this year -- and we don't have all of the statistics in -- is that we're probably going be increased in medical waivers, and we're going to decrease in our conduct waivers, overall. And we'll be happy to provide those numbers to you, once we have all of the data.
I did want to follow up on one of the earlier questions on bonuses, because there's a thought that every soldier receives a bonus. And the average bonus for a soldier is about $18,000, and 28 percent of our soldiers receive no bonus at all. So these soldiers, these men and women, are coming into the Army because they are patriots. They want to serve their nation at a time that the nation needs their help. And I think we ought to look at them as heroes the day that they enlist, and they truly are.
DR. CHU: Thank you.
Q But the question about the economy and its impact on possibly reducing the number of waivers that have to be issued?
DR. CHU: Conceivably, although, again, as I emphasized, the bulk of the waivers, by count, are on issues like drug -- acknowledged drug usage. That's a social issue. It's not necessarily going to be affected by the economy at large.
Now we are going to move to a better -- to a consistent set of standards on what we call a waiver, starting with fiscal year 2009. In other words, the one we are starting now. So I'm hoping we can put all this discussion on a better empirical base going forward, so we can make the kind of comparisons that you're interested in.
The services have had different definitions of what is or isn't a waiver across the years, so it's a little hard sometimes to draw conclusions about trends. But what I would emphasize is, if the waiver results -- reflects, rather, a underlying social phenomenon -- and drug experimentation is such a phenomenon, as leading political figures have personally acknowledged -- then you're not going to see the military be substantially different from American society.
Q No, but what --
DR. CHU: And that's also true of some of the medical issues that are out there, too.
Q But don’t you think, though, that if the -- if the economic situation increases, the number -- the pool of people who are predisposed to join the military -- the military might be able to be more selective and therefore not have to consider someone who might require a waiver, and then that --
DR. CHU: Conceivably. Conceivably. But again, I think you -- we have to take the whole person into account here and a phenomenon I think is an important part of our society. These are often people who are 18, 19, 20, 21 years of age. Young people make mistakes. It doesn't mean that they're a bad person.
And I do think there's -- this is strictly a personal view, but I do think there's a national benefit to the military being willing to say, "You've straightened yourself out. That mistake was not so terrible as to disqualify you from serving your country in uniform." So I think we'll be a little careful to say that only if you have zero defects are we ever going to consider you for military service.
And that's true also on the medical front, that, you know, you may have something that might disqualify you, but you so want to serve and you bring a set of talents, whatever that might be -- it might be affinity for mathematics that makes you a great nuclear power technician candidate that we want to have you. So I'd be a little careful that we don't want anyone who needs a waiver in the military. I think it's a bad place to be -- bad national policy.
GEN. MILSTEAD: And when you talk waivers, remember, you're talking apples and oranges. You're talking apples and oranges amongst the services. Each service has different waiver --
Q Microphones, please.
GEN. MILSTEAD: I'm sorry. When you talk waivers, you're talking apples and oranges. Each service has a different waiver criteria. Forty-six percent of the young men and women that entered the Marine Corps last year entered on a waiver. We require a waiver for one-time experimental marijuana use. The other services don't.
So you don't take the waivers and look at them even across the board. So you have to look at. Just want to make that point.
DR. CHU: Right. Right.
Q But if it doesn't affect waivers --
DR. CHU: I'm sorry, if what?
Q If it doesn't affects waivers, do you see a potentially -- you see a potential drop in bonuses paid out or other statistics that you've given us today?
DR. CHU: From what? I'm sorry.
Q Because of where the economy's headed, do you see a potential drop in --
DR. CHU: Could happen. And there -- recruiting is a very challenging enterprise, especially on the scale on which we attempt it and given the quality standards, the broad quality standards that we set in terms of achievement and in terms of ability.
And so, yes, the economy may make it a little easier in one dimension, but there may be events someplace else that make it tougher for us in some other dimension.
So I'm very reluctant to forecast that just because the economy has turned a bit or looks like it's going to turn a bit south -- hasn't actually done that yet, except for the stock market here and the concern with the financial -- some of the financial institutions. Might we benefit? Yes, we might benefit, but I don't want to be too -- I don't want to say that is a solution. It's not a solution we're looking for, either, I should --
GEN. BOSTICK: One area I wanted to point out that we don't often talk about but we're going to work very hard and have been is our entry pool. The entry pool that we start the next year with is very important to the recruiters. It's very important to the training base. And if you look at last year, our entry pool was 7,400 for an 80,000 mission. And that was the lowest in the history of U.S. Army Recruiting Command. Our goal was to push that to about 20,000.
So one area that we will certainly work to increase is the entry pool. This year our entry pool is 11,000, and we're going to -- we want to push that as high as we can in the environment that we're in. So regardless of where we go on end strength and continuing to grow the Army, we have another part of the mission that we don't talk about, which is our entry pool for all of the services that we're working on.
Q You know, one of the areas that you haven't touched on at all is the Army's decision to raise the maximum age at which people can enlist. I think it's gone from 35 to -- I think it's up to 40. I think pretty soon I'll be able to enlist. (Laughter.)
DR. CHU: We have forms waiting in the back. (Laughter.)
Q What -- of the new recruits that you signed up in fiscal year 2008, what percentage fall into that window of people who wouldn't have been eligible a few years ago that are now eligible just simply based on their age?
GEN. BOSTICK: I don't have the exact figures here, but it's a very small number. I will tell you that just in the over 40, it's less than 500. And every one of those soldiers that come in that are over 40 are in great shape. They compete very well at basic training, and many graduate at the top of their classes. But we can provide you the statistics. It's still a very small number.
DR. CHU: But we're delighted if you'd like to help us raise that number.
Q So on the medical waivers, what percentage of that is weight, obesity factors? I know both the Marine Corps and the Army have kind of done pre- -- enlisted schools to get the weight kind of --
DR. CHU: Right, conditioning.
Q I mean, what percentage of your waivers are --
DR. CHU: I don't have that offhand. I don't know if -- General Bostick, do you the Army even -- let us get that for you later.
GEN. MILSTEAD: In the Marine Corps, it's none.
DR. CHU: All right. Yes, sir?
Q You mentioned the Marine Corps falling somewhat short of some ambition -- ambitious --
DR. CHU: Our first-term ambitions.
Q I'm just wondering if there was any, I guess, adjustment on strategy or anything like that.
DR. CHU: No, the Marine Corps was correctly -- this is quite apart from making our numbers. Given it's expanding to 202,000, it sought to retain as high a fraction of those ending their first term as possible.
So it set, put a very high mark on the wall. Candidly I don't think any of us thought it could get there. They’ve made enormous progress against that. So it's finishing the year, for Marine strength across the board, at 105 percent of what we planned.
So there's no shortfall. But it didn't quite make this high goal. That's more of a human capital strategy, element. In other words, if we're going to expand, let's retain as many of the people already there as we possibly can.
They did retain far more first-term personnel this year than last year. So it's an improvement, didn't quite get to the goal. So just in terms of the reporting we give you, which is against these goal numbers, I should acknowledge, we didn't make that, didn't make that standard.
Thank you all.
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