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‘Atrophied’ Recruiting Strategy Being Overhauled

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U.S. Army
Friday, October 26, 2018

Citing an “atrophied” recruiting strategy that has withered from years of declining end strength, the Army will tackle new population centers in the U.S., roll out new advertising and strengthen the force charged with meeting the mission.

The Army missed its fiscal 2018 recruiting target by about 6,500, Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, acknowledged at the recent Association of the U.S. Army Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washington, D.C.

Describing the Army’s “1970s industrial approach” to recruiting as one of the most significant roadblocks to mission success, Townsend, who has been on the job since March, outlined four areas under transformation to improve recruiting:

  • There will be “surge operations” in 22 U.S. cities where there has been significant population growth “where we have underperformed in the past,” Townsend said. Recruiting missions have long had success in the Southeast, deep South and in the Midwest, offsetting performance in other parts of the country. “But that’s not where populations are growing, and there are high-quality recruits in those other areas,” he said.
  • Marketing and advertising are being transformed. This includes national, regional and local research “at the ZIP code level” to focus advertising and outreach; a new crop of recruiting ads, some of which were rolled out in mid-October; and an overhaul of the recruiting website www.goarmy.com, which hasn’t been refreshed in 10 years. “It’s woefully inadequate,” Townsend said, adding that the Army’s research and analytical capabilities “had atrophied” and are also inadequate.
  • Recruiters are being added to “fill out the team,” he said, noting that over the summer the recruiting mechanism “was about 700 recruiters short.”
  • The accessions enterprise, formerly the responsibility of the secretary of the Army, has been consolidated under the commander of TRADOC. This gives Townsend the authority to convene and direct the Army’s accessions across the board. “In the past, the only person who could do that, a few weeks ago, was the secretary of the Army,” he said. Responsibility for accessions had been “diffused across the enterprise.”

“Our Army was in decline until 2016–2017. We were on a downward trend and when you’re not having to strive to achieve your goal, your recruiting system atrophies,” Townsend said. “You don’t really see that atrophy until you turn the switch back on and start ramping up your recruiting efforts. Then it becomes more obvious.”