DoD talent grab in trouble as industry ramps up new hiring

The Defense Department may have an even harder time attracting and retaining the talent it requires as defense companies are expected to increase their hiring in 2016.

A Feb. 16 study by Deloitte predicts a 3.2 percent increase in aerospace and defense (A&D) sector employment for 2016, reversing a trend of declining job growth within the industry.

Despite cutting jobs in past years, wages within the A&D sector have increased from an average of $79,000 per year to $94,000 per year.

Those numbers don’t bode well for the Defense Department, which only requested a 1.6 percent pay raise for its employees in 2017.

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DoD has been trying desperately to recruit and retain talented individuals out of college and from the private sector.

“I want as many people to be a part of our mission as I can possibly attract,” Defense Secretary Ash Carter said back in December.

Experts and some studies state DoD and the military services have been losing talent for years.

A 2015 Brookings Institution study found that the quality of Marine Corps officers has significantly declined since 1980.

Tim Kane, a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, has been warning that Army has been losing top talent for years.

As a result, Carter has implemented the Force of the Future as a means of wooing top talent back into the public sector.

The initiatives range from training perks to a more family-friendly force.

That includes adding more maternity leave for military personnel and making it easier for employees to move between the public and private sectors.

“We need to manage our workforce in Defense the way thoughtful companies do today,” Carter said. “We’re not a company, we’ll never be. We’re a profession of arms; it’s different. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn.”

But with the A&D industry expected to hire almost 40,000 employees this year at an average salary nearing six digits — almost twice the national average — the government faces a harder sell to top talent.

The Deloitte study found the potential increase in jobs is fueled by growing national security threats, global tensions, recapitalization requirements and a rising DoD budget.

“Prime defense contractors in the U.S. are expected to be the key beneficiaries from the increase in Defense budgets, thereby contributing to the expected rise in employment in the overall A&D sector in 2016,” the study stated.

From 2010 to 2015, the Defense subsector saw a steady decline in jobs. In 2014, the Defense subsector lost 2.3 percent of its employee base and lost an additional 1.3 percent in 2015.

Those losses were mostly due to the sequestration caps placed on DoD. During the five-year period, DoD either had to work with a sequester budget or a budget that was hampered by a budget deal.

Defense budget spending dropped from $691 billion in 2010 to $560 billion in 2015. The fiscal 2016 budget gives DoD a hike up to $585 billion and the 2017 budget is expected, at a minimum, to be $582.7 billion.

That extra money means more spending on programs and more work for private industry.