Monday, April 11, 2011

US Military at a choosier point

As with most job markets these days, the US military can afford to be choosier, according to Friday's print edition of USAToday.

This is good news for our military, as just four years ago, we were at our lowest numbers in ten years, according to a Boston Globe article: "The percentage of high-quality recruits entering the Army is the lowest in 10 years, an indication that the force is struggling to attract top-grade enlistees -- and a troubling sign for the Pentagon, which is waging wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and plans to add 90,000 ground troops to its ranks within the next five years." In 2006, a similar NYT article on US military goals had a quote from the top Pentagon personnel officer, David Chu, noting the phenomena occurring just five years ago:

"Opportunities for young people have gotten better and better," he said. "They are choosier."

Unfortunately, young people these days are not the choosy ones, and thus minor matters can make big differences. The 2011 article provides some hard numbers on recruiting statistics for 2010, including:

  • Last year, 99% of recruits had a high school diploma before entering the service, up from 91% in 2006, when fighting in Iraq was near its peak and the economy was stronger.
  • The Army granted waivers to 8.7% of the recruits entering the service last fiscal year, down from 15.6% the previous year. Most of those waivers were for medical reasons.The services said waivers allowed recruiters to make exceptions if they thought a recruit deserved a second chance for a youthful indiscretion or minor health issue.
  • The Army this year also returned the maximum age for enlisting to 35. It had been raised to 42 in 2006. The money available for bonuses has declined in recent years.

This certainly means excellent news for our armed forces, who will certainly take advantage of higher-caliber individuals when having fewer troops in Afghanistan & Iraq.

However, while I know little about the exact process , it also makes me wonder if the 'whole package' is being looked at less and less. Does a college graduate always take precedence over a high school graduate over a non-high school graduate? Does someone with a youthful indiscretion (including marijuana usage) have half the chance of receiving a waiver these days? Or is the military truly looking at the bigger picture with each individual?

For those applying for work national security positions, many agencies have automatic disqualifiers, from marijuana usage to DUIs, which can be overlooked in periods of recruiting hardship. But in periods of higher applications, should these factors-age, HS diploma, waiver applicability- be the first factors we look at in disqualifying people? Or should we treat them on a case-by-case basis? While the differences may be hard to quantify, the article leaves some important points out. However, there tends to be an overall research gap when looking into these sorts of issues, that I think it would make an excellent point of research.

1 comment:

Robert Farley said...

It's a trap!