By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 16, 2014 – Military recruiting is going well today, but economic and demographic changes will make the environment more difficult in the future, said Vee Penrod, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy.
Penrod and the armed services’ personnel chiefs testified today before the House Armed Services military personnel subcommittee.
The U.S. all-volunteer force continues to be the strongest and most well-respected military in the world, Penrod said. It has been stressed through more than 12 years of war, but it has proven to be resilient.
New recruit quality is at an all-time high, “and in almost every category, we continue to achieve the numbers of volunteers required to sustain this professional force,” she said.
Recruiting the best young Americans remains the key to success of the military, and economic and demographic changes may make this more difficult.
“Despite our recent recruiting success, the process has inherent challenges,” she said.
The number of youth eligible to enlist is limited, she said. Roughly 75 percent of American youth are not qualified for military service. “There are a number of reasons for this, but the main reasons among them are health and fitness issues,” Penrod said.
The propensity to enlist is also down. “Since 2004, the percent of youths who associate military service with an attractive lifestyle is down approximately 20 percent,” she said.
The overall health of the economy also plays a role in attracting eligible youth. The last couple of years of relatively high youth unemployment have served as a driver for more people to consider military service. “As the economy improves, however, we expect youth interest in military service as an employment option to decline,” Penrod said.
“To expand the recruiting market, the department has long supported the enlistment of non-citizens, to the extent permitted by law, subject to these individuals to being otherwise qualified for service in the United States armed forces,” she said.
DOD is conducting a comprehensive review of immigration issues as they relate to serve in the armed forces. Penrod promised to share the conclusions of that review with Congress.
Fiscal realities also impact recruiting, requiring the services to continuously adjust recruiting programs. “To overcome potential challenges that may lie ahead, we must ensure our recruiters are trained and the appropriate recruiting resources are available to meet these challenges,” she said.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneAFPS)
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