Army Recruiting Update, the Good and the Bad

Some comments on Army recruiting...

The good. Army recruiting is up. That's good. It seems their annual goal of 80,000 recruits will be hit based on the current trajectory.

The bad. The Army has yet again widened the net. Now it is so extraordinarily wide, it would be very scary if they didn't met their numbers.

Minimum physical requirements for the green and the gray recruits:

Men

Age 17

Age 41

Sit-ups

47

29

Push-ups

35

24

2-mile run

16 minutes, 36 seconds

19 minutes, 30 seconds

Women

Sit-ups

47

29

Push-ups

13

6

2-mile run

19 minutes, 42 seconds

24 minutes, 6 seconds

After missing recruiting goals in January and subsequently raising age ceiling from 35 to 40, the Army decided not enough older and "more mature" ladies and gentlemen were enlisting and added a few more months to get the just below 42'ers. To accommodate these older folks, the physical requirements were lowered. Afterall, we move slower at this age and its more about the quality, right? Remember the story about the old bull and the young bull on the hilltop looking down at the cows?

By the way, the Air Force and Marines still have a more 'traditional' age limit of 27 and the Navy allows most thirysomethings with its limit of 35. 

Does this jive with Thomas Barnett's model of the SysAdmin force of married, more mature soldiers? Is this really what the USA is looking for? I sincerely doubt it, they just need to make their quota (and all that meeting the quota entails and implies). What happens with this yet broader net than the really broad net before? Read on...

And more bad.

In a very typical bureaucratic press release a couple of weeks ago, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, David S. C. Chu, said the military has been able to fill its ranks without sacrificing quality.

Tucked away at the end of the story?

Chu said he is not disturbed by the increase in the number of "category 4" personnel joining the Army. These recruits score in the lowest category of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery of tests.

The Army recruits no more than 4 percent of its force from this category, meeting the DoD benchmark, explained Doug Smith, public affairs officer for U.S. Army Recruiting Command. For many years, the Army had a self-imposed 2-percent limit, he said, but raised it to 4 percent in 2005.

In a modern era were forces must be more SOF-like and be "pentathletes", how does lowering the standard help? Even these men and women were not seen as capable enough to fight in the Fulda Gap, how are they to fight urban insurgencies where?

What about the National Guard? Those are the guys with splashy brochures advertising signing bonuses and other neat things. Well, according to the ArmyTimes, the Guard is running out of money to pay recruiting bonuses:

"we just can't afford to keep raising [recruiting bonuses] every year," said Lt. Col. Mike Jones, deputy division chief for recruiting and retention..."

Doesn't portend well for the future. So, why are we paying "temps" to fill the gap of our Army? Not sure what I mean? Let me rephrase...

We entered this conflict with not enough soldiers. Despite advice to go in with hundreds of thousands, we went in with a small force that was clearly unable to keep the peace. Instead of ramping up the Army, raising pay and bonuses ASAP, we opted to outsource. This was great because we upsized our armed presence without reporting to Congress or the American public (it also allowed us to his the 1,000 KIA mark later since the contractors didn't count). As with any temp, you pay more so you don't have to pay all the incidentals that go with an employee. The temps, in this case, tended to (not exclusively) be our own military and therefore were plug-and-play (although their integration with the Armed Forces at any one time was informal at best). We also didn't need to worry about their equipping them directly (although because of ITAR regulations, they fueled the black market for weapons). But hey, we got the advantage of firing them when we wanted and didn't need to have a bloated military. That sounds great unless we consider the fact we've now gone through what would be one to three recruiting cycles, depending on the length of time (remember the 18 month enlistment?) of the individual's commitment. Doesn't seem like we have a bargain anymore, does it? Perhaps we should have better spent our money on internalizing the talent to build the future force instead of paying middlemen to provide our own services back to us. Reminds me of Dilbert and the corporate experience of outsourcing IT (it's reminded me of this for over three years now).