The U.S. Army is preparing to overhaul its recruiting efforts, after closing fiscal year 2023 with about 10,000 fewer recruits than it had set out for.
At a press conference at the Pentagon on Tuesday, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George announced the service recruited about 55,000 new soldiers in fiscal year 2023, missing its goal of 65,000 new recruits by about 15 percent. Despite this recruiting miss, the Army saw successes with its retention rates, and managed to meet its end-strength goal for the year of 452,000 active-duty soldiers.
This year’s recruiting miss marks the second in a row for the Army. The service notched a 25 percent miss on its fiscal year 2022 goal to recruit 60,000 new soldiers.
In her Tuesday remarks, Ms. Wormuth said the fiscal year 2023 recruiting goal was always going to be a challenge for the Army, but she wanted the push the service’s recruiting efforts following last year’s miss.
“65,000 was our target. We knew, frankly, when we set that, that was going to be tough to make,” Ms. Wormuth said. “But it was very important that we needed to send a strong signal both to our own recruiters, to our recruiting workforce, to put the pedal to the metal, and also to show Congress and the public that we were going to push as hard as we can. So that was the decision-making behind that.”
The Army secretary attributed this second consecutive recruiting miss to a variety of factors outside the Army’s control, such as a competitive labor market and a drop in the percentage of young Americans who are either eligible or interested in military service.
“A lot of that is beyond the Army’s ability singly to change,” Ms. Wormuth said.
Changing Recruiting Tactics
Ms. Wormuth detailed a variety of new measures the Army will take to improve its recruiting, including reconfiguring its recruiting teams.
While the Army does have some specialized recruiters, many of the service’s recruiting staff are soldiers who have different military occupational specialty (MOS) training and often only do a brief stint in the recruiting field before returning to their regular MOS. Ms. Wormuth said the Army will begin opening up new paths to have more soldiers take permanent recruiting MOSs and will employ a specialized aptitude test in selecting its recruiting personnel.
Alongside overhauling its recruiting staff, the Army will also shift its focus to begin recruiting from new areas of society.
Historically, people with only a high school diploma have comprised the majority of the military’s potential candidates. In her Pentagon remarks, Ms. Wormuth said people with only a high-school level of education comprise a shrinking share of the labor market. As a result of this shift, Ms. Wormuth said the Army should begin seeking out more candidates with higher education qualifications.
“We’re of course gonna continue to seek high school graduates, but we’re gonna formally assign our recruiters the responsibility to get a third of their new contracts from more than high school graduates,” Ms. Wormuth said.
The Army secretary said the service will make increasing use of digital job boards like Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter and will begin testing out major career fairs as a way to expand beyond their typical base of high school graduates.
Gen. George said another goal in the Army’s recruiting overhaul is to speed up experimentation and innovation in the recruiting space. He said the U.S. Army Recruiting Command will deputize someone to resolve various contractual and bureaucratic hurdles to trying new recruiting tools and techniques where possible. He said the service will also employ more data analysis to identify where recruiting methods are working or falling short.
“We will establish an evidence-based learning capability in the Army headquarters that will incorporate data collection and program evaluation design into accessions policy planning and implementation,” Gen. George said.
Ms. Wormuth said the overhauls to the Army’s recruiting would help the service move beyond what she described as a failing pattern of “just continuing to sort of have the same approach but do it better and harder.”