The Army’s recruiting force is operating at capacity with about 8,000 billets filled, after last year saw an average gap of about 400 personnel. A final push ― with an offer of $1,500 extra pay a month to extend orders ― got the forced balanced by a Jan. 15 deadline set by the Army chief of staff.
Now, leaders are hoping they can continue to produce enough recruiters to prevent any gaps, and potentially in the future, be efficient enough to reduce the size of that force altogether.
“In times of famine, when we’re not doing well, the Army throws a lot of resources at recruiting,” Gen. Stephen Townsend, head of Army Training and Doctrine Command, told Army Times on Thursday. “Then we’re in times of plenty, and we’re doing great, and the Army starts pulling resources back and sending them elsewhere.”
In anticipation of a growing force, for at least the next several years, the Army wants to steady its numbers of recruiters to support an accessions goal of 72,000 a year, Maj. Gen. Joe Calloway, the director of personnel management at Army headquarters, told Army Times last fall ― or about 8,300.
This year’s goal is closer to the mid-60s, down from last year’s original 80,000.
“We have this idea that we’re going to look forward to more steady-state manning,” Townsend said Thursday.
In late 2018, the Army offered current recruiters $1,500 extra pay a month to extend their orders for a year, which helped bring the force up to full strength. Now, recruiters can draw an extra $1,500 a month for a commitment between 90 days and 12 months.
Ideally, those extensions will not only fill gaps, but give Army Recruiting Command time to identify, vet and train new recruiters to take their places.
A year ago, Townsend said, USAREC was short 700 recruiters, largely because while the Army had surged its goal during 2017 and 2018 to recruit enough new soldiers to increase end strength, it takes almost a year to produce new recruiters, and the process couldn’t crank them out fast enough.
“I am not worried about the Army’s personnel enterprise not being able to keep up,” Townsend added. “More broadly, what I’m concerned out, is trying to get the resources to sort of a steady state so that we don’t have to do these ups and downs.”
And in the long term, he added, he hopes that the market research and digital outreach the Army is shoring up now will create a recruiting enterprise so efficient that it doesn’t need as many boots on the ground.
“More longer range, I want to reduce the recruiter force,” he said. “I want to reduce the recruiting force so we can actually put those sergeants back in brigades and divisions.”
After a rough 2018, Army recruiting is trying to turn around both its strategies and its notorious culture
The Army is overhauling its recruiting enterprise, but it's also facing a shortfall of noncommissioned officers while it's trying to grow.
Though Army retention is at an all-time high, there is still a shortage of staff sergeants throughout the force ― the prime demographic for recruiting.
They’re also in demand as drill sergeants, to help train all of the new soldiers the Army is bringing in, and to lead those new soldiers' squads in operational units.
The Army has offered reenlistment benefits, raised retention control points and authorized automatic local board appearances for promotable specialists and sergeants to shore up the E-6 ranks, but reducing their numbers in recruiting would free them up for other jobs.
“That’s the goal," Townsend said. “In the future, to have a system that has fewer recruiters in the field and allows us to return those sergeants and staff sergeants to the operating force.”