RETENTION TROUBLE LOOMING
Senior Army leaders and some members of Congress are beginning to express concern that a confluence of factors could seriously hamper recruiting and retention in the coming years.
The services have routinely met or exceeded recruiting and retention goals over the past decade, but the current drawdown may be masking a growing problem.
Recent history illustrates some of the potential impacts that a drawdown and compensation cuts can have on recruiting and retention.
During the last major drawdown in the 1990s, the services significantly reduced their recruiting and retention goals which in turn made it easier for them to achieve them. But years of military pay caps created a 13.5 percent pay gap with the private sector, out-of-pocket housings costs rose to 18 percent and REDUX cut retired pay by 25 percent.
By the late 1990s these cuts coupled with a booming economy led the services to experience serious difficulties attracting and retaining the quality personnel that they needed. To meet their needs the services were forced to use expensive bonuses, and Congress eventually responded to the crisis by reversing compensation cuts.
The services may now be repeating this dangerous mistake. In a typical year the Army fills almost half of its annual recruiting needs through the Delayed Entry Program (DEP), but in 2015 only 30 percent of recruiting needs will be filled through DEP.
According to Maj Gen Allen Batschelet, commanding general of US Army Recruiting Command, 40 percent of Army recruits never finish their first term. About 15 percent of enlistees fail to make it through initial-entry training, and another 25 percent leave the service during their first permanent duty assignment.
A growing economy, continued military pay and compensation cuts, retirement reform, increasing operational tempo with a smaller force, the perception of limited career prospects, and other societal changes may challenge the Army's ability to recruit and retain the best and brightest service members.