ARLINGTON, Va. (Oct. 20, 2014) -- U.S. Army Recruiting Command gathered leading public and private sector thinkers to study the future of recruiting as the quality of the prospect pool dwindles.

During the Recruiting 2020 Forum at RAND Corporation in September, Defense and Army officials, researchers, and human resources professionals discussed the challenges facing Army recruiting in the future and potential solutions to those challenges.

"Significant adjustments are needed to meet the requirements of Force 2025 and beyond," said Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet, commanding general of U.S. Army Recruiting Command. "We have always recruited under a demand-focused model, assuming adequate supply would be available.

"The supply of qualified men and women who are inclined to serve in the Army continues to decline. I believe supply is inadequate to demand and we must change our national strategy to maintain an all-volunteer force."

Batschelet addressed societal issues affecting the eligibility of the current population. At this time, only three of every 10 young people are eligible for military service. The leading factor is obesity, causing approximately 20 percent of ineligibilities. Statistics indicate that number will increase to about 50 percent over the next five years, driving the eligible population down to one in 10.

Another issue recruiters often discuss is an individual's willingness to serve. Only one in four individuals who are eligible to serve are willing, making it an uphill battle to convince most young people of the benefits of service.

"In the long term, we must address some national issues like obesity, education and drug use," Batschelet said. "In the short term, we must look at means to expand the market."

He encourages a shift in thinking from recruiting to talent acquisition. In order to find the talented individuals the Army will need for its smaller, more agile force, Batschelet said, it is competing with leading corporations across the country, whose benefits are often on par with the Army's.

During the forum approximately 60 members tackled four main topics:

• Can we represent America and defend her simultaneously?
• Attitude or aptitude, heart or head: What are the best predictors of future Soldier success?
• Recruiting the very best and still offering the opportunity to be all you can be.
• Balancing recruiting missions, retention goals, and terms of service.

"Can we have our cake and eat it, too? We have to," said Lt. Gen. Thomas Bostick, commanding general of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and former U.S. Army Recruiting Command commander.

He said the Army must have the high-quality talent necessary to support the nation, and that talent must be representative of America.

Can the Army afford both quality and representation? How does the Army define the Soldiers it wants? Should different occupational specialties have different standards? Should the Army expand cognitive evaluations to determine what traits would best serve specific jobs?

These and many others are the questions Army leaders and researchers face in determining the way ahead.

"Our best smart weapon is the Soldier," Gen. David Perkins, commanding general, U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, said to the forum.

To ensure the Army can continuously improve that "smart weapon," researchers will address the questions and discussion topics from the Recruiting 2020 Forum in the coming months. The group will reassemble in May to present their refined thoughts and recommendations to give the Army options for the future.

In the mean time, U.S. Army Recruiting Command personnel are streamlining the application process using mobile technology, employing virtual recruiting methods for areas without recruiting centers, rewriting recruiting doctrine, and revamping Recruiting and Retention School curriculum to ensure the recruiting force has the necessary skills and capabilities to build the Army America needs.