Military Wants to Bust Through Recruiter 'Roadblocks' Thrown Up by Some Schools

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said the Pentagon is going to be assessing which schools are making life difficult for military recruiters with a plan to "educate" institutions about the law and ease access.

In describing the "Force of the Future" initiatives on a visit to City College of New York’s Manhattan campus today, Carter included the effort in "some important new things to help each of the services improve their recruiting efforts to increase our access geographically, demographically and generationally."

"For example, I've heard from some of our recruiters that some high schools aren't giving them the access they feel they need to be able to do their jobs. Now the law requires schools to give our recruiters a basic level of access, and while it seems many schools are complying with that, recognizing the DoD might offer their students an exciting and impactful careers, some others are putting up roadblocks. This is wrong," he said.

"So as part of a new program to help recruiters, we're gonna survey them and identify where exactly they face impediments to access and what the most useful types of access actually are so we can educate those educators who may not be complying with the law or who may be making life harder on their students and recruiters and find a way to improve that."

Carter said the goal "is to better educate schools about our mission and help them realize they should want to let us in because it'd be a missed opportunity for their students if they don't."

The Armed Services will also be "experimenting," he said, "with having their recruiters be more mobile, leveraging technologies so they can recruit across a wider geographic areas."

"And they'll also review some of the benchmarks kids currently have to meet in order to join the military," the secretary added.

Carter said recruiters have told him of "spectacular potential recruits" who didn't meet benchmarks such as "current physical fitness, tattoos they got when they were younger, single parenthood and the like."

"Now, some of these things we'll never be able to compromise on. We'll always have to maintain high standards. At the same time, these benchmarks must be kept relevant for both today's force and tomorrow's, meaning we have to ensure that they're not unnecessarily restrictive. So we're gonna review and update these standards as appropriate," he said.

Currently, Carter said, military recruiting "tends to be most successful in the South, the Southwest, Big Sky country, and most difficult in the Northeast."

"And that's paradoxical since the Northeast is among the regions with the highest percentage of young Americans who have the qualifications to serve," he added. "...These geographic gaps represent an opportunity -- a great opportunity for us to draw talent from places where we haven't been."

The Defense Department, he said, is "going to change how we highlight our mission through advertising."

"Although the Defense Department used to advertise the value of military life as a whole, we got away from that over the last several years. In some ways, we're a victim of our success with so many people signing up after 9/11 and the Great Recession. Now we're getting back into it. I mean, we're starting to advertise the value of military life and public service again in the service's recruiting ads," Carter continued.

"...We won't be selling the newest phones or trying to get you signed up for the newest credit card. Ultimately what we're selling is service and mission, a chance to be part, as I said, of something bigger than yourself that will not only do something good for you, but that you serve others."

Not only potential recruits will be targeted by the ads, he said, but "parents, grandparents, coaches, teachers, guidance counselors and more who might influence a potential recruit."

The Pentagon is also going to create a DoD speaker's bureau to send out to audience such as "schools, parents, teachers, principles, coaches, career counselors, civic groups, cultural groups, youth groups, companies and more."