Army meets recruiting goals for first time in years

The Army closed out the fiscal year that ended a little over a week ago having met its recruiting goals for the first time in five years.

The Army closed out the fiscal year that ended a little over a week ago having met its recruiting goals for the first time in five years: 62,500 new accessions in the active Army and 15,400 in the Army Reserve.

The overall accomplishment is largely due to improvements in the Army Reserve. While the Army Recruiting Command and its 9,000 recruiters have had no trouble meeting their goals for the regular Army, they struggled to fill Reserve spots for years. In 2013, for example, the Reserve fell short by about 4,600 recruits, meeting only 77 percent of its goal. By 2015, it was still short 2,300 recruits out of a goal of 17,300.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, the commander of Army Recruiting Command, said Reserve positions have historically been tougher to fill since recruiters need to draw new soldiers from a relatively small geographic radius near an Army Reserve drilling site. But setting more “realistic” goals has helped. Last year’s target for Reserve recruiting was 15,400, the lowest number in six years.

He said recruiters and the Army Reserve’s leadership also worked more collaboratively than has been the case in past years.

“They provided me with their deputy commanding general for support, and a big part of his portfolio was to build the relationship with our troop program units,” Snow said in an interview for On DoD with Jared Serbu. “We do recruiting reserve partnership events all over the United States, but we weren’t getting the right people at those forums. So he really reached out to the local reserve commanders and emphasized  that this is a shared mission, and that they have a responsibility to communicate to us the kinds of people that they really need. We saw much better participation from troop program units at these meetings.”

For 2017, the Army will need to recruit about the same number of soldiers as it did in the past year even as the service continues its drawdown to about 450,000 active duty personnel.

And, for the first time, Army recruiting command will begin experimenting with a model that lets it recruit into all three Army components, not just the active Army and the Reserve.

Currently, the National Guard and its adjutants general in 54 states and territories are responsible for their own accessions programs, but a provision in the House version of this year’s  Defense authorization bill would create a three-year pilot program for consolidated Army recruiting.

The notion was first suggested earlier this year by the National Commission on the Future of the Army, which said it was disturbed by a lack of “unity of effort” in Army recruiting.

“Each component and state establishes its own recruiting goals. Similarly, Regular Army and the Army Reserve marketing is controlled by the Army Marketing and Research Group while Army National Guard marketing is managed by the National Guard Bureau on behalf of the states. This results in inconsistent branding and different marketing campaigns for the Army and the Army National Guard,” commissioners wrote in their final report. “These legal and policy structures create inefficiency and encourage competition — contributing to continued tension — among the components. This is readily apparent in the area of recruiting and marketing; therefore, any effort to truly manage one Army must include aligning recruiting efforts for all three components.”

The commission recommended Congress give the Army the authority for a consolidated recruiting pilot program that bypasses any existing legal barriers between Army components. But Snow said Army Recruiting Command is already setting the wheels in motion to test various approaches without waiting for the legislation to be passed.

“It’s still very much in the planning stages, but what it would do is allow us to link our efforts with the National Guard. In some cases, I’ll have National Guard working for me, in some cases, I’ll have recruiters working for the adjutant generals,” he said. “We’ve identified about 18 centers across the United States where we’re going to look at this pilot and see if there are things we can learn from one another. Based on when the NDAA is actually passed, we anticipate starting sometime in this spring or summer.”

He said one objective is to put Army recruiting requirements for all three components on a level playing field.

“Right now that’s a challenge for us,” he said. “In the case of the National Guard, some states do exceptionally well, some do not. And in some cases, it’s actually more advantageous for a young man or woman to go into the National Guard than the regular Army or Reserve because some states add things like educational benefits on top of the federal benefits. So we’re going to have to work together all the second-and-third order effects.”

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