Attrition: Sometimes Look On The Bright Side Of Life


December 13,2008: In the United States, the current recession, which has seen the unemployment rate go from 4.5 percent to 6.5 percent (and possibly as high as 8 percent in the next year, before it starts coming down) has been a big help for military recruiters. Not only are they getting plenty of recruits, but they can be more picky, upping standards. The higher quality recruits are cheaper to train (fewer drop out) and easier to work with (fewer disciplinary problems, and thus fewer getting tossed out before their enlistments are up.)

In addition to new recruits, thousands of officers and troops who got out in the last year, have returned. The services learned long ago that people they can't keep, sometimes change their minds after they leave. So in most cases, anyone who is gone less than a year, is allowed back in with minimum hassle, or loss of rank.

The Department of Defense also expects to cut back on retention bonuses, which cost $1.6 billion last year. These will still be paid to a lot of senior combat commanders (particularly NCOs, especially if they are in Special Forces) about to retire, but many of the younger troops with technical skills, will find themselves offered smaller, if any, bonuses, as well as less rosy employment prospects on the civilian side.

Military planners see this as a short term bonus, for economic history shows that, since World War II, recessions have been steadily fewer and shallower. This one may be deeper than usual, but it won't break the trend. In a few years, recruiters will again be scrambling for every recruit.


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