Army Plans To Overhaul Recruiting After Missing Goal Again

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The Army will undertake major overhauls to its recruiting force after it likely missed its recruiting goal for fiscal year 2023, which ended Sept. 30, by about 10,000 recruits, top officials said at a press conference Tuesday.

For the second year in a row, the Army missed active duty recruiting objectives by thousands, achieving in 2023 about 55,000 of its 65,000 troop goal, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said, according to a news release. The reforms unveiled Tuesday come from a study of the past 25 years of Army recruiting and focus on making the Army more competitive against the private sector, but it could be years before they are fully realized, according to Military Times.

“What we’re doing is really focused on changing what we can control [and] seizing our own destiny,” Wormuth said. (RELATED: Army Plans To Spend Billions On Attracting New Troops In 2024 As Recruiting Challenges Are Expected To Persist)

The Army reached an end strength of 485,000 active duty troops in 2021, but it finished out 2023 with the smallest full-time force since before WWII at just 452,000, according to Military Times.

In addition, it only met that end strength objective by delving into what’s called the Delayed Entry Pool, recruits still in high school who signed contracts to ship out in 2024, the Army said.

One change increases the access of U.S. Army Recruiting Command to the Army’s Pentagon headquarters and places a three-star general in charge instead of a two-star.

Another reform involves refocusing recruiting efforts on Americans in college or who have already entered the job market, the Army said. Today about 80% of new recruits enter straight from high school, but the Army wants at least 30% of new soldiers to have more than a high school degree by 2028 to compensate for the shrinking workforce of non-college educated young people.

“We’re going to train [recruiters] to start using digital job boards … we’re going to start piloting large-scale career fairs in major population centers,” Wormuth said. “Instead of just having a table in a high school cafeteria, we’re really going to try to do something more like private sector companies do.”

The Army’s inability to meet recruiting goals stems from longer-term trends, Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Randy George noted, according to Military Times. The service has failed to meet actual contract goals since 2014, further dwindling the Delayed Entry Pool and placing more strain on recruiters to surge end-of-year recruiting numbers through willpower rather than efficient practices.

It also hopes to develop a specialized, longer-term recruiting workforce and rely less heavily on soldiers to perform mandatory recruiting assignments. That means establishing career fields for enlisted personnel and warrant officers in recruiting.

Wormuth and George also discussed setting up an experimentation team and constructing an evidence-based way to measure the effect of different policy initiatives, noting the study found the Army had failed historically to measure the success of recruiting policy changes in a reliable way.

Some steps the Army has taken so far appear to be successful, like the Army’s Future Soldier Prep Course. The program, which provides academic tutoring or physical fitness training for prospective soldiers who don’t quite meet entrance standards, has graduated nearly 9,000 Army recruits since implementation in August 2022.

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