Recruiting the Future

The Pentagon is overhauling how it recruits and retains service members, using all-digital approaches and even targeted ads to expand the pool from which future service members will enlist. Defense Secretary Ash Carter on Thursday unveiled more proposals in his “Force of the Future” initiative, a broad approach to make the Pentagon become more enticing to future uniformed and civilian hires. The changes will start at the outset of recruiting, moving away from a system weighed down by stacks and stacks of paperwork into an all-digital system for recruitment and enlistment within five years. “Plenty of our personnel can tell stories about having to fill out the same packets of paperwork over and over again,” Carter said during a speech in the Pentagon courtyard. “Not a good sign for a new recruit who’s been hearing that we’re the most technologically advanced military in the world.”

The Pentagon also will expand work done by its Joint Advertising, Market Research, and Studies Program to use data science and micro-targeting to “build a precision recruiting database.” Currently, 40 percent of new recruits come from just six states mainly in the south, while most Reserve Officer Training Corps and service academy graduates come from the north. “We can’t keep fishing in the same old ponds,” Carter said. “Instead, we have to fish in more ponds, new ponds, and ponds we haven’t been in in a long time.”