Seasonal working reservists? DoD entertains some creative ideas to recruit and retain better

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The Defense Department is trying to think of some new ways to recruit and retain people for the reserves, and may turn to some experimental methods.

A report from the RAND Corporation and commissioned by the deputy assistant defense secretary for reserve integration ponders some of the more far reaching methods of bringing in and keeping reservists.

The study comes after both the Army and Navy Reserves missed their 2018 recruitment goals — the Army Reserve only filled 72.6% of its benchmark.

“This was an exploratory study that aimed to look outside the box to get around potential manpower issues the reserve component faces across a variety of issues,” Molly Dunigan, senior political scientist at RAND, told Federal News Network. “We looked primarily at two dimensions of constraint: location constraints and scheduling constraints.”

The study came up with a host of potential workforce constructs that could be used as pilot programs in the future to retain and recruit reservists or even specific occupations into the reserves.

The potential programs include creating a cadre of reservists that might not deploy.

“Part of what we are trying to recognize is while current DoD policy wants all service members deployable, there are large numbers of positions that are based within the continental United States and do not require deployment,” said Stephen Dalzell, senior political scientist at RAND. “We wanted to put on the table the concept of cases where you have a critical shortage of a skill, that there might be reasons to fine-tune the policy to ensure those people can continue contributing from their location even if they can’t physically deploy.”

Another idea expands teleworking arrangements.

“Reservists would be able to provide a broad range of tasks remotely from any location,” Dunigan said. “This is designed to breakdown the location barrier. Somebody who can’t get to training locations or to their duty location due to personal responsibilities, characteristics or their job. The idea is it would facilitate a greater number of folks being able to participate in the reserve components.”

A third potential creates a “seasonal worker” or “seasonal reserve.”

The idea takes advantage of surge economies — think department stores around the holidays, and how the companies hire more people.

“There are reserve skills that are hard to train on a traditional one-weekend-a-month type of schedule,” Dalzell said. “That’s not a lot of time to get your team together and do an activity. The idea is to create complementary opportunities for parts of the population who are available for larger stretches of time. Could they be gathered into groups for longer stretches of training?”

It’s possible that DoD might use some of the ideas as fodder for legislative proposals for the 2021 defense authorization bill.

The reserves aren’t the only areas missing their goals. The Army missed its active-duty recruitment goals in 2018 as well. Experts blame low unemployment and old recruiting tactics for the issue.

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