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US Army Recruiters Face Increasingly Competitive Labour Market

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Written by Johannes Krause

The US Army, in lieu of conscription, must compete for recruits on the labour market like any other employer. However, the US labour market is increasingly competitive. Although the US Army is not precisely waging a ‘war for talent’ – a catch-phrase often used by senior Army leaders – the Army is undoubtedly engaged in a struggle against corporate America in its search for qualified and motivated recruits. In this struggle, some employers have even “taken a few pages out of the Army’s playbook.” More specifically, many companies now offer incentives and bonuses that the Army once exclusively offered, such as college tuition assistance and signing bonuses. As Sergeant Major John Foley puts it, “[major companies] have increased their value proposition.”

This tendency by ‘Corporate America’ to overshadow the benefits offered by the Army is a great issue for Army recruiters than the supposed supply issues. In this sense, the problem is not the “perceived decline in the number of Americans qualified to serve” as is frequently claimed, but simply a lack of competitiveness on the side of the Army. To counter this lack of competitiveness, the Army’s Recruiting Command (USAREC) seeks to increase its operational efficiency by embarking on a “mission modernization.” This modernisation drive involves four areas of change and innovation:

  1. The Army will develop an approach to recruitment on a more individual basis.
  2. The Army is returning to a recruitment methodology based on “assigned geographical territories” to allow for a more focused effort.
  3. The Army will develop new “rolling quarterly mission targets for units.”
  4. Recruiters will expand existing social media channels and pioneer “new technologies.”

In addition to the USAREC’s “mission modernization” efforts, further steps are taken to meet the challenge posed by the private sector. Such steps include financial incentives, such as an increase in signing bonus – the Army will now offer up to 50,000 USD to new recruits. Moreover, the Army is also interested in responding to (for them) novel employee demands, primarily the desire on the part of “young kids […] to be part of decision making in their own careers and lives”, as Major General Kevin Vereen put it. Accordingly, the Army will introduce “new contract options,” which will allow recruits to “pick their first duty station from a list of several major U.S. installations.” The Army is also planning to expand “short-term enlistment options for two-year contracts that also carry a subsequent two-year Reserve commitment.” Nevertheless, as USAREC senior leaders further noted, there are also systematic factors responsible for recruitment shortages, such as the one in the fiscal year of 2021, where the Army missed its 2021 recruiting goal “by more than 4,000 troops.” One of these systematic factors relates to geography: “prospective part-time soldiers are recruited into specific vacancies, and units near them may not have the job they want.”


Winkie, D. (2022, March 29). Army Recruiting tries to keep pace amid job market crunch, civilian competition. Defense News.