Paper: Army Should Address Retention Challenges

Paper: Army Should Address Retention Challenges

Basic trainees train at Fort Jackson, South Carolina.
Photo by: U.S. Army/Robin Hicks

The Army should expand its “Be All You Can Be” recruiting campaign to also focus on retention challenges, according to a new paper published by the Association of the U.S. Army. 

The Army says it has met its retention goals for Fiscal Year 2023,” Lt. Col. Amos Fox writes in the paper. “Yet, merely accomplishing a retention goal does not tell the whole story; such an accomplishment can actually hide personnel challenges.” 

In “Be All You Can Be: Suggestions for Implementation in the Army,” Fox, a doctoral candidate at the University of Reading and a freelance writer and conflict scholar writing for AUSA, recommends that the Army foster community and create opportunities for growth using “a more forgiving personnel system” to better retain the talent in its ranks.

One way to “positively impact retention challenges” is to reduce how often a soldier is asked to move to a new duty station, Fox writes. Homesteading also helps the Army build a greater sense of community, Fox writes.

He defines homesteading as “allowing Soldiers—and their families, if applicable—to put roots down at one location for a period of time that exceeds two to three years.” Homesteading in regiments could allow soldiers to work together longer, “building better cohesion and trust,” Fox writes.  

“Homesteading within a regimental structure … might help improve some of the challenges of Army life that are causing much of the personnel attrition of more senior Soldiers, non-commissioned officers and commissioned officers,” Fox writes. Though homesteading “would not fix all of the problems associated with Army life, ... it would be a small, first step.” 

The Army also should shift from a personnel system that emphasizes attaining key billets to one that is more forgiving, Fox writes. The current “up-or-out promotion system … in many cases inhibits the Army from being all that it can be,” he writes.

Instead of this system, creating professional or technical career tracks could boost retention, according to Fox. 

“The force should examine ways in which to retain and promote talented individuals, even if their respective career field options have contracted,” he writes. “One such option is to create professional or technical tracks. The fields might include plans and strategy career tracts, institutional tracts at Centers of Excellence, or within branch-specific schools, or any other number of options.”

To ensure soldiers reach their full potential, the Army as an institution must also be all it can be, Fox writes. “While the Army seeks recruits who are interested in being all they can be in the Army, the institution itself should seek out ways that help it to do the same,” he writes.

The paper is available here.