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Chapter 2:


The Services are one of the largest employers in the United States, enlisting more than 180,000 young men and women in the Active Components in FY 2000. Recruiting a quality force is as important as ever, perhaps more important, given the smaller number of men and women in the military and the increasing sophistication of weapons and methods for fighting modern wars. Service missions have changed to include peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts, requiring additional skills from today's men and women in uniform.

With the prospering economy of the past few years, recruiters have experienced the greatest challenges to signing up new recruits since the advent of the All Volunteer Force. Although access to post-high school opportunities has expanded in recent years, research suggests that the Service recruiting campaigns are having an impact on the youth of our country. Among today’s youth, the military is perceived as providing opportunities, furthering education, helping individuals grow and mature, and contributing to the country. [footnote 1]

As the United States experiences very low unemployment rates, [footnote 2] employers—including the military—find recruiting qualified personnel very competitive. An increasing proportion of youth have college aspirations today. Most high school seniors report that they plan to go to college (82 percent respond that they definitely or probably will graduate from a 4-year college). [footnote 3] About 63 percent of the graduates of the high school class of 1999 actually enrolled in college in the Fall after their senior year, compared to about half of high school graduates 20 years ago. [footnote 4] The desire to participate in post-secondary education is important to monitor as propensity of college-bound youth is lower than for those not planning to attend college. [footnote 5] Despite being faced with relatively low propensity, record low unemployment rates, and increasing competition with colleges and universities, the hard work of military recruiters and innovative incentive programs helped all active Services meet their FY 2000 accession requirements. Programs designed to attract college-bound youth, such as the Army’s "College First" program that compensates recruits while they attend college during time in the Delayed Entry Program or in the Selected Reserve, helped the Services attract a high-quality accession cohort (high school graduates with above average aptitude) in FY 2000. [footnote 6] This chapter introduces the Active Component enlistment process, followed by demographic characteristics of enlisted applicants and recruits.

[footnote 1] Sellman, W.S., Reinventing DoD Corporate Marketing, briefing presented to the International Workshop on Military Recruitment and Retention in the 21st Century, The Hague, Netherlands, April 2001. [back to paragraph]

[footnote 2] Labor force statistics extracted from the Current Population Survey, Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 16-year-olds and older and 16- to 19-year-olds in the civilian labor force.) URL: [back to paragraph]

[footnote 3] U.S. Department of Education, The Condition of Education 2001 (NCES 2001-072) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), Table 19-1. [back to paragraph]

[footnote 4] U.S. Department of Education, The Digest of Education Statistics 2000 (NCES 2001-034) (Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics, 2001), Table 185. [back to paragraph]

[footnote 5] Segal, D.R., Bachman, J.G., Freedman-Doan, P., and O'Malley, P.M., "Propensity to Serve in the U.S. Military: Temporal Trends and Subgroup Differences," Armed Forces & Society, 25 (1999), pp. 407-427. [back to paragraph]

[footnote 6] Rutherford, G., Recruiting from the College-Oriented Market - information paper (Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, July 6, 2001). [back to paragraph]

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