March 22, 2009:
The U.S. military is making the best of the recession, by raising their standards for both new recruits, and existing troops who want to stay in. In February, all the services exceeded their recruiting goals, even while being more selective. Retention (getting the troops you want to stay in) is also way ahead of schedule. The army, only five months into the fiscal year, has already re-enlisted over 60 percent of the 65,000 soldiers it wants to retain for the year.
With the civilian unemployment rate over 8 percent for the first time in over twenty years, more people want to get into the military, and more of those already in, are not so eager to get out. The military, however, still has a problem getting, and keeping people with special skills. Medical professionals are always difficult to recruit, and retain. Other technical specialties, like computer network administrators and analysts (mainly for intelligence work) are easier to attract now, given the large layoffs in the financial sector. Electronic and nuclear power technicians are still in demand in the civilian economy, and the military has to pay bonuses to get and retain these people. The most valuable specialists are the highly expert military specialists (combat NCOs, Special Forces, combat pilots), because these have to be trained and nurtured within the military. There is no civilian source. Many of the highest re-enlistment bonuses go to these people, who comprise only a few percent of all personnel.