Army soldiers with the Wichita Recruiting Company hosted a recruitment booth at Hutchinson, Kan., on Sept. 9, 2023. The soldiers hosted the booth at the Kansas State Fairgrounds to interact with the public and inform about enlistment opportunities and benefits. (Aiden Griffitts/U.S. Army Reserve)
The Army plans to create a new recruiting specialty after missing its enlistment goal for a second straight year as the service aims for a recruiting force styled after talent-acquisition models used by private businesses, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Tuesday.
The Army will build the new, full-time military operational specialty 42T, or talent acquisition specialist, over the coming years, as the service works to bulk up its recruiting apparatus, Wormuth said. The service also will elevate U.S. Army Recruiting Command, or USAREC, from a two-star headquarters to a three-star command and bring U.S. Army Cadet Command, which oversees ROTC programs at U.S. colleges, and the Army marketing team under USAREC’s control.
Wormuth labeled the moves “transformational changes” in the way that the Army works to bring in new enlisted soldiers. Change is needed, she said, in a world where fewer young Americans are eligible to join the military and even less have interest in serving.
“Continuing to have the same approach [toward recruiting] but doing it better and harder is not going to get us where we need to be if we’re going to get … to a place where we can reliably bring in, ideally, more than 60,000 young American a year,” Wormuth told reporters at the Pentagon. “We have found that the job market really has changed significantly over the last 20 years, and we have not — frankly, the Army has not changed much in how we approach that job market, while a lot of our competitors have.”
The Army enlisted about 55,000 young Americans in fiscal 2023, which ended Sept. 30, falling about 10,000 enlistment contracts short of its 65,000-recruit goal, Wormuth said. Despite missing its goal, she said she was pleased with her recruiters’ efforts during the fiscal year, which saw a 10,000-recruit increase over fiscal 2022.
The Army secretary labeled year a “stretch goal,” which the service was always unlikely to meet.
“But it was very important that we needed to send a strong signal to both our own recruiters, our recruiting workforce, to put the pedal to the metal, and also show Congress and the public that we were going to push as hard as we can,” Wormuth said. “So, that was the decision-making behind that.”
The Army’s fiscal 2023 efforts will allow it to meet its congressionally mandated end strength goal of 452,000 active-duty soldiers, the service said. Wormuth said last month that while the service has a large enough force to meet all its operational and training requirements, continued recruiting troubles eventually could lead to an Army too small to fight a war effectively in Europe or the Indo-Pacific region.
Wormuth said Tuesday that the Army will make major adjustments to how it trains recruiters and who it targets to bring into the service.
Recruiters will be instructed to focus less on high school seniors and Americans with no college experience, who for years have made up more than half of the Army’s annual enlistments but account for less than 20% of the eligible potential recruit population, Wormuth said. Recruiters will work to better interact with people who have spent some time in college or even those with college degrees, aiming to make those individuals at least one-third of the Army’s recruits by 2028, she said.
Meanwhile, the Army will work to transform who serves as recruiters and how it trains them. Wormuth said the service will build a new aptitude test to qualify soldiers to serve in the recruiting profession.
About two-thirds of the Army’s 8,000 recruiters work in that job temporarily, spending a couple of years as a recruiter and then returning to their regular Army job. The remaining recruiters are permanent recruiters in the military occupational specialty 79R. Wormuth said those 79Rs will serve as the model as the service spends the coming years creating the new 42T military occupational specialty for a fully permanent recruiter workforce.
Those soldiers will be chosen via a unique selection program and will receive more specialized recruiter training, Wormuth said. The Army also intends to build a recruiting warrant officer program, she said.
“Today, we basically use administrative criteria to select our [noncommissioned officers] who recruit. They basically have a background check to make sure that they can work appropriately with young people,” Wormuth said. “We’re going to start using an aptitude test to make sure that the folks that we bring into the recruiting workforce have the kind of skills and attributes to be successful in what is a pretty challenging responsibility.”
In addition to elevating USAREC to a three-star command, Wormuth said the command’s top general will begin serving four-year stints in the role, as opposed to the about two years recent USAREC commanders have served there. The reorganization is meant to better sync all the Army’s recruiting and marketing efforts and bring more uniformity across the command.
She said the extended tour for USAREC’s top officer will allow that general to better understand the job over time, start new initiatives and see them through to implementation. Many recent USAREC commanders have started new programs only to see them fade away when they leave the job.
“Recruiting is one of the most important missions in the Army, and these changes reflect that importance,” said , the Army chief of staff, who spoke alongside Wormuth on Tuesday.
While the Army fell short of its enlistment goal again, the service did get a head start on its efforts for fiscal 2024, Wormuth said. Army recruiters committed some 4,600 recruits to ship to basic training in the coming fiscal year. The Army was not the only service to miss its 2023 recruiting goal. The Navy and Air Force also fell short, while the Marine Corps and Space Force reached their enlistment goals, officials with those services have said.
Wormuth said the Army is always more challenged to meet its annual enlistment goals, as it is the largest military service with the highest annual recruiting target.
The secretary said the service has yet to make an enlistment goal for fiscal 2024. She expected the annual target would be lower than 65,000 for the new fiscal year.
“I think now the recruiting enterprise in the Army very much understands how important that role is, and they don’t need us to signal to them to put the pedal to the metal,” Wormuth said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do to implement all of these changes, so I would imagine we settle on something lower than 65,000.”