Army Declares ‘War for Talent’

Army Declares ‘War for Talent’

Swearing in recruits
Photo by: U.S. Army/Kelly Morris

Army leaders have declared war after acknowledging serious problems manning the force.

“This is not a recruiter problem,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville say in a joint memo that projects Regular Army troop strength will be about 466,400 at the end of the fiscal year, far less than the originally budgeted 485,000. 

That is not the worst of it. While the Army is taking steps to improve recruiting, “we currently project that our end strength may further decrease,” the leaders say, warning it could drop as low as 445,000 by the end of fiscal 2023. 

This is not what the Army wants. “Though it will take time, our objective is to regrow our end strength to 460K or more as quickly as possible, and we will pursue this objective aggressively,” Wormuth and McConville write, announcing a series of short- and long-term initiatives to overcome the societal changes that are behind most of the Army’s recruiting woes.

Since the creation of the all-volunteer force in 1973, things have not gone exactly as planned. Intense competition in the private sector labor market has hurt, Army leaders said. Additionally, academic and fitness standards have fallen among service-aged youth. Recruiters have also had a more difficult time selling military service during the pandemic.

Market research shows the Army doesn’t have the attention of enough Americans, and service-aged youths have misconceptions about Army service. “Potential recruits cannot see themselves in the Army, often due to assumptions about Army life and culture,” the memo says. 

There is another problem, too. “Younger Americans are losing trust and confidence in many American institutions, including the military,” it says.

Efforts are underway to rethink marketing, but Wormuth and McConville promise they won’t lower standards. 

Proven recruiters will be extended in their jobs, and retired recruiters could be brought back as mentors. A new physical fitness and academic program will be tested to help incoming recruits who don’t quite meet Army standards but could with some help. Funding will be provided to hold recruiting events in priority population centers.

More initiatives will follow, Wormuth and McConville write. “We are in a war for talent,” they say, pledging to “fight and win this war.”

Read the Army leaders’ memo here.