Media Round Table with Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth and General Randy George

By U.S. Army Public AffairsOctober 4, 2023

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth: Appreciate it. We're pleased to have the opportunity to talk with you all about both where we have ended FY ‘23 in terms of recruiting. But even more importantly, I think, you know, decisions that General George and I have made about where we're going to take the Army in the future in terms of transforming our recruiting enterprise. So, as you all know, General McConville and I had set what I have repeatedly said throughout this year was a stretch goal for our recruiting. 65,000 was our target. We knew, frankly, when we set that, that was going to be tough to make. But it was very important that we needed to send a strong signal both to our own recruiters, to our recruiting workforce, to put the pedal to the metal, and also to show Congress and the public that we were going to push as hard as we can. So that was the decision-making behind that.

We have ended this year at nearly 55,000 contracts, 4,600 of those are going to go into our delayed entry pool. Those will be young Americans who will ship next year. So that's kind of rebuilding our bank account and I think that is a very big achievement compared to last year, particularly when the labor market has remained very, very competitive. And I really want to take a minute, and I know General George and I both feel strongly about this, to give huge credit to our recruiters, to our 8,000 recruiters at USAREC, but also, really, frankly, the whole army had really gotten behind USAREC to help make ourselves more visible, we launched you know our new ad campaign, Be All You Can Be. We did a lot of innovative things like the Future Soldier Prep Course that I know a lot of you all are very familiar with. We surged medical screeners to our MEPS stations to help shrink the timeline that you know young kids were going through to actually get to basic training.

It's been a huge amount of work, and being a recruiter, ask anyone who's done it, is a hard job. And so, I really want to give credit to our recruiting workforce. So, while I am quite pleased with where we've landed this year. It was evident, I would say, months ago, that we were going to have to make some more transformational changes. That just continuing to sort of have the same approach but do it better and harder was not going to get us where we need to be if we're going to get our end strength back up again and get to a place where we can reliably recruit more than, ideally, 60,000 young Americans a year. And so General McConville and I but working very closely with General George when he was still the Vice, made a decision to ask General Doug Stitt, who is our G-1, our Chief People Officer, to lead a study team that would really do a clean sheet review of Army recruiting and come back to us with some options and recommendations for what we could do to really try to transform ourselves.

And part of that effort, first of all, the study team did incredible work. They reviewed 25 years of data, looking at quantitative data, qualitative data, really trying to help us diagnose the problems. And one of the things that we have found is that the job market has changed very significantly over the last 20 years, and we have not frankly, the Army you know has not changed very much how we approach that job market, while a lot of our competitors in the private sector have. And so, what General George and I are going to talk about in terms of the decisions that we've made, is looking at how can we shift how we approach--how we recruit excuse me, to better match where the job market actually is. We spent a lot of time, the study team basically took the summer to do its work and come back to us. We had some retired folks, general officers with recruiting experience on that team. They talked to a number of Fortune 500 companies. We tried to look at best practices from the private sector. And--and then General George and I and others spent quite a bit of time sort of discussing their options and debating what exactly we wanted to do. And what we've decided to do is really to take five major steps, and I'll talk about three, and then General George will talk about two. But I think one, you know, I would say a couple of things in terms of framing the decisions that we've made.

First of all, what we're doing is really focused on changing what we can control, you know seizing our own destiny. There are a lot of things happening that are outside of the United States Army's ability to control. You know the declining percentage of young Americans who are eligible to join the military, the declining propensity, that--you know a lot of that is beyond the Army's ability singly to change. And so, what we've really tried to focus on, since this is an existential issue for us, is what can we change right now? What can we do to help ourselves? And that's really kind of where we tried to focus.

So, the first thing that we're doing is expanding our prospect market. A huge change in the last 20 years is that many more young people go to college coming out of high school today than they used to. So, the high school market is actually shrinking. The Army actually gets 50% of our contracts from high school seniors or high school graduates. But when you look at the broader labor market, only 15% to 20% of the labor market is comprised of individuals with just high school education. So that's a big change. And we have set a goal for ourselves that by 2028, we are going to get a third of our new contracts every year from young people who have more than a high school education. The high school market is still going to be very important to us. You know don’t misunderstand me. We're of course going to continue to seek high school graduates, but we're going to formally assign our recruiters the responsibility to get a third of their new contracts from more than high school graduates.

Doing that is going to be a big shift and it's going to take new training and new tools for our recruiters. So, they will begin--we’re going to give them basically new recruiting platforms to work from. We're going to train them to start using digital job boards and you know there's any number of those that you all are familiar with. We're going to start piloting large-scale career fairs in major population centers you know instead of just having a table in a high school cafeteria. We're really going to try to do something more like private sector companies do. So that is going to be the first really big shift. Now again, to enable our recruiters to be successful in going after that changed labor market, we are going to shift from what I would call sort of a borrowed workforce to a permanent specialized recruiter workforce. You know we essentially--most of our recruiters, we do have specialized recruiters, 79 Romeos. But many of our recruiters come from different MOSs all across the Army. You know they do a stint in recruiting and then they go back out to do the thing that is their main MOS.

Unlike the private sector, we do not have a specialized permanent recruiting workforce. And General George and I feel strongly that if we're going to be successful going forward, we need to change that. So, we are going to create a new MOS 42 Tango that will be Talent Acquisition and we're going to use our high-performing 79 Romeos. Again, the folks who are already specialized, if you will, in recruiting as kind of the seed corn for how we're going to start building that. We're also going to create a new Warrant Officer opportunity associated with being a permanent recruiter and we're going to basically start giving our recruiters more training. Right now, they do not get a lot of additional training to come and be recruiters. We're going to give them opportunities to train with industry, for example, and we're going to start selecting them differently. Today we basically use administrative criteria to select our NCOs who recruit. They have basically a background check to make sure that they can work appropriately with young people.

We are going to start using an aptitude test to make sure that the folks that we bring into the recruiting workforce have the kind of skills and attributes to be successful in what is a pretty challenging responsibility. So that's a big change. It's going to be a multi-year journey to get that in place, but we're going to try to start moving down that road as rapidly as we can. Again, we can use the 79 Romeos as seed corn. We're going to take some of our best practices for how we select people into the soft community to help inform how we can go out around the Army and proactively, look for folks who might want to join this new recruiting workforce. And again, we're going to start giving them that new training to make them you know as effective as possible in going after a broader workforce.

The last big decision I want to talk about before turning it over to General George is another thing we're going to do is really elevate and better align the pieces of the Army that are charged with recruiting responsibilities. If you look back over time, the Army has organized itself a few different ways in terms of recruiting, USAREC has moved around a couple of different times. Today it is part of our training and doctrine, four-star headquarters, and that has served us well as a parent headquarters. But I think General George and I feel that given the core importance of recruiting to the United States Army, we wanna make sure that the folks who are responsible for that important task have the kind of that we have, frankly, the kind of visibility into how they're doing that we need to have. And we want to make sure that they have all of the resources and authorities that they need to be successful. So, we are going to elevate USAREC to a three-star command. We are going to move our marketing office not physically, probably you know our marketing office is in Chicago, but we're going to move it to be part of Recruiting Command. Right now, it reports directly to our Manpower and Readiness Assistant Secretary, but we think that moving it to USAREC will create more synergies between marketing, which is obviously important to recruiting, and the folks who recruit. We're also going to have Cadet Command be part of USAREC because obviously our officers are important part of talent acquisition. And I think very importantly, we're going to extend the tenure of the Commanding General of USAREC to be at least four years.

We've had great GOs lead USAREC over the years, but their average tenure is around two years. And I know, and I'll say this on the record, that I'm more effective as the Secretary of the Army at two and a half years in than I was in the first six months. I hope I'll continue to improve, and this will give the opportunity for that leader to you know really understand the job, put new initiatives in motion, and see them through. So, I think that extended tenure will be very beneficial for us as well.

So why don't I stop there and turn it over to General George to talk through the other two big decisions.

General Randy George: Okay, first, thank you all for coming. Appreciate it, really. Number one challenge for us, the Secretary and I spent several meetings a week, I think, talking about this and getting after it and talking to our leadership that's out there. So, 41 years ago, I enlisted in the Army. And that's the other reason why this is important to me is I know what the military provides as far as an ability to make your life better for a whole bunch of people that are out there, whether it's for three years or five years, that they stay a whole long time. So really important, I've seen that when I just was down at Fort Moore talking to a bunch of youngsters that were going through basic training in Fort Sill. There's so many opportunities and so we just got to get better at getting the word out and getting out there with everybody. I think it's important. It's our job to defend the nation. We actually have to have the people and the right people in the formation to do that.

I also want to tell you as we do this, I'm hoping that you guys, I want to invite you along. This is part of the journey as we start to get after some of these changes we've been doing, whether you've been to recruiting stations or whatever, I'd love to invite you down with us so that you can see what we're doing and how we're instituting some of these changes. So, I'm going to talk about two things. Experimentation is the first one or the final two of the five. And in my experience, a lot of the best ideas usually come from the bottom up. And I'll give you an example. I was up in Albany. There's a Sergeant First Class who gets an off-the-shelf software and tries to figure out how he can--like Indeed or something very similar and starts you know canvassing the areas. And he was able just through doing that, to figure out how they could talk to--how the recruiters could talk to the folks that might be interested in the military who may not have even known about it.

So, what we're going to do is make sure that we get the resources and authorities down to USAREC. So not anywhere here in the building, but out in USAREC. We are going to put a DCG, a Deputy in USAREC, who can focus on innovation, making sure that they have software if there's contracting that needs to happen or really pushing through some of the other bureaucratic hurdles that might be resident on occasion that we have somebody to do that. And then we're also--and General Davis knows that out there right now, we got a lot of these companies that are really focused on their mission. And sometimes it's hard to innovate and do something different when you know you got a mission that's coming and you say, hey, I have to produce 10 or 20 or whatever else it is that we have the ability to maybe take some folks offline and say, hey, let's innovate and see how we are doing and give them the flexibility to do that and [inaudible] the pressure on both sides.

I think we'll get a lot of reward out of that. I think that we're going to find that experimentation is going to be different in California or New York, you know, how--what things work locally may be different. And we'll look to scale things up that actually do think will scale across the organization. And obviously, that will, because they're going to be direct report to us and use direct work and that we'll be able to have those discussions.

And then the next thing that we are going to really focus on and we're looking at actually we're going to have a meeting here after AUSA. But we do a lot to, we've given bonuses, we've figured out, we've given station choice. We do a lot of these things. And I think what we haven't done a good enough job is really the data analytics to understand how are these things working? What works best? Is it a combination of those kinds of things that would work best as we go through in the future, a real close study of our advertising. A lot of things, honestly, that I think we should have been doing, we haven't been doing, that we need to do as we move forward.

And we have the [inaudible] operations research and the analyst to do that. So, we're looking at kind of corralling that a little bit together. We have some of that up at West Point Army Research Institute here in G-1. So, we'll look to piece all that together and make sure that's part of USAREC. If we have to hire additional folks, we’re looking at doing that as well so that we can study kind of how we're doing. And I think that's what's most important. I guess the thing that I will leave you, we have five areas that we're looking for. We know that we have to be agile and we're going to have to adjust. And that's kind of one of our big things is that we have to adjust to the conditions that are out there on the ground like the Army always does. We just have to be agile. And I think that that's our biggest thing as we go into this where we need to make adjustments and how we're doing business, we will.

Major Grace Geiger: Thank you, sir. Thank you, ma'am. So, we'll go ahead and open it up for questions and answers now. We'll start with Lita and then we'll just go kind of around the table that way. So go ahead, Lita.

Lita Baldor: Hi, thanks. Lita Baldor with AP. I have one sort of recruiting question and then one on a separate topic. Last year you set a stretch goal. What are you going to do this year, considering you're trying to work in all these new programs? Do you lower it a little bit so that recruiters aren't stressed? Or do you try sort of the same idea again, setting sort of a higher-level goal? And then just for the second question, whichever one of you want to answer is fine. Just on Travis King, because that's been a big issue over the last couple of weeks. Can you sketch out for us what now for Travis King? He's been at Brooks Army Medical Center for a week or more now. What are the steps as you look down the road and particularly towards any sort of punishment or judicial-type situation? Can you just sketch out how that looks?

Wormuth: Sure. On your first question, Lita, I think General George and I have to sit down with our G-1 and talk through sort of what we think the next year's target is going to be. One of the things we have to look at, obviously, is our end strength and what we need to make our end strength this year. With the performance that we had for FY ‘23, we did make the end strength that we predicted to Congress. So actually, we did a little bit better. We're going to be at 453,000, I think. So, we've still got to talk through what specific number we will settle on in terms of our mission. I think it probably will be lower than 65,000 just because, again, you know that was a stretch goal. I think now the recruiting enterprise in the Army very much understands how important that role is, and they don't need us to sort of signal to them, put the pedal to the medal. They did that this year. We're going to keep doing that. We've got a lot of work to do to implement all of these changes. So, I would imagine we'll settle on something lower than 65,000. But what specifically we still need to sort of talk through with our G-1 community. And on Private King, I don't have a lot more new to say about--you know right now, we're really focused on the reintegration process for Private King. I was pleased that he was able to see his mom this weekend. As a mom, I can only imagine how important that was. He is you know in the integration process. He is being looked at medically to make sure that he's healthy, both physically, emotionally. There's sort of a decompression part of the reintegration, given everything that he's gone through. And then, of course, there's debriefing. Obviously, we don't have a lot of Americans who are in North Korea, so people are going to want to talk to him and learn from what he I think, you know, we will get to the point where the chain of command will decide sort of what consequences he'll be facing in terms of the things that have happened. But we're not at that point right now.

Unknown #1: [inaudible] from Reuters, again, one question on recruiting and one unrelated. There's been a lot of polarization in recent years, especially with Republicans saying that military is woke or too weak or soft. Have you thought about, as we're heading into an election year and a potential administration that in the past has talked negatively about the military, how you would counter that and how that could affect recruiting? In other words, have you thought about Trump proofing the recruiting process going forward, especially if he starts talking about the military and how it's too woke and liberal and those sort of ideas? And then unrelated on Ukraine and ATACMS Obviously your decision is for the president. Can the Army provide ATACMS to Ukraine in a significant number and still keep enough for us?

Wormuth: Sure. Let me talk about those or?

George: Yeah, I can start on those.

Wormuth: Sure.

George: I mean I want to start on the obviously, the polarization has impacts because I think on either side that we see that. Everybody always asks me on recruiting, why doesn't somebody join the military? And I joined because I had somebody locally who talked to me about the military. And so, we need that. It's important to have influencers, teachers, all those you know people that are in our local community, counselors, parents that are talking to their kids about that. And I think the Secretary mentioned up front we're doing really well on retention. Once people get in, we are focused. I know that I spend most of my time talking about being ready for our war-fighting mission. That's what I spend most of my time, and that's when I talk to most of the Commanders, that and building cohesive teams. So, I think when people get in the military, they find out that it's a great place to be. So, I just think we got to get the word out. That's part of the thing we were talking about with marketing and let everybody know what we're doing, how the military is operating and how it can accelerate their life. So, I don't know if there's anything particular as far as proofing anything. I just think we have to continue to get the message out on the ATACMS. We're prepared if that's a decision that is made, to provide the ATACMS, and we're postured to do that quickly.

Wormuth: I’m just--I would just add going back to the partisanship if you will, and the sort of critiques, various critiques, which, frankly, both sides of the aisle have. You know I agree with everything General George said, and I would just say I think what we really need our recruiters to do is show young Americans what the Army is really about. Our Army is a very diverse Army. I think it's important and has been important for many, many years that the United States Army look like the nation it serves. So, I think you see that anytime you go into a recruiting station. You see that in our new ad campaigns. And what we've tried to show, I think, in our ad campaigns, for example, is the range of different things you can do, but really also to bring a focus on warfighting. I don't know if any of you have seen the new ad that shows a young soldier doing his first jump out of an airplane. I think it's important to remind young Americans you know that our job is to fight and win the nation's wars. And that's a good example of the kind of thing you'll be doing if you join the United States Army.

But I think that's also something that hopefully young Americans will see when we start doing large-scale job fairs, is that will bring--that'll give us the possibility to have soldiers from a wide range of MOSs and young Americans can talk to them about what they're really doing. And I think when they talk to them, they'll find that what most soldiers are focused on is doing their job. They're you know going to talk about quality of life. They're going to talk about, I think, the kind of community and larger purpose that they're a part of. You know, I hope that that will inoculate ourselves against critiques on both sides.
Mike Glenn: Okay. Hi, Mike Glenn with The Washington Times. The Army's bonus payouts were very generous. Is that going to continue is there going to be any change.
to that with this new focus on different aspects? Is this still staying [inaudible]?

George: Yeah, I'll give it a first shot Secretary [inaudible] I think that's what I talked about a little bit was understanding the analytics. I will tell you that a lot of people are joining because they want station of choice. So, we've had a lot of people say, hey, I want to go to Alaska, I want to go to Hawaii. I want to go know Fort Carson, Colorado. So, some of it is location, some of it is understanding what particular job that they want to do. And I think that that's it. And then there's others where I think that we offer incentives, maybe where we're competing. And kind of what we were talking about was having the real analytics to understand what is that maybe there's a combination. I think we can do better at offering combinations of those things and understanding what they were, but we're competing with you know what's changed. Like, when I enlisted, it was important to me to get college money, but Starbucks wasn't offering $50,000 as well, and there's a lot of things that we're competing with. So again, when I was just, I've been to Sill and Fort Moore recently. A lot of everybody talks about the Gen Z. They were pretty--I saw especially at Fort Moore, they're down at the obstacle course. I don't know if anybody's been down to Fort Moore to the obstacle course. They're excited about that kind of stuff and being a part of it. So, I think everybody comes in for different reasons. So, we just have to keep all of our options available to us.

Glenn: Are you going to focus--I mean when I joined the Army, there was a recruiter, came to our high school, set up a card table, we signed [inaudible] whatever. Are you going to do the same thing in colleges now? I mean, if you're going to sort of look toward them a little bit more, maybe go directly into the belly of the beast of these colleges and try to [crosstalk].

Wormuth: I think we absolutely want to raise our presence on college campuses. And again, that goes to because of everything I said about where the prospect market has moved to. There's also folks who go to community colleges. I think that's an important market for us. There's obviously a large percentage of kids who start college but don't necessarily finish. So, we need to I think, both be more physically present on college and community college campuses but also find other ways to get to those people. So much of where people are, if you will, when they're thinking about employment opportunities is in kind of the digital virtual space as opposed to being physically somewhere. Mike, I also just wanted to go back on the bonus piece. What we want to do going forward obviously is be efficient and cost-effective with the bonuses that we're offering. So, the one that got a lot of news when it was announced was the $50,000 bonus. We actually didn't use that a lot. The quick ship or first duty station of choice was much more popular. I think one thing we learned this year is that we need to focus our bonuses on priority MOSs, you know, to the extent that we really need to focus, and General George has talked about this a lot. We really need to get people to come on in and join infantry for example. So, targeting bonuses to help incentivize those kinds of choices is something that we want to do going forward.

Ashley Roque: Hi Ashley Roque with Breaking Defense. Sort of on that MOS infrastructure Secretary, I think you told lawmakers several months ago that you were doing sort of a night court given the recruiting challenges. Could you sort of give us an update on where that stands and if there's going to be cuts to certain MOSs or [inaudible] or anything like that? And then also retention is good right now. Are you predicting sort of a drop off at some point and sort of how do we look at that long term?

Wormuth: Sure, why don't I take the force structure and you take retention. So, the Army is in a moment of transformation where we are really pivoting from Coin and CT to large-scale combat operations. So, we've got to transform our force structure. There's stuff that we built purpose-built for CTN and Coin that we don't need as much anymore. There are new capabilities that we need to bring into the force. So that is the transformation of force structure that we have been working on. I think that we will be able to go up and talk to lawmakers in the very near future. There’s stuff that we built purpose built for CT and COIN that we don't need as much anymore. There are new capabilities that we need to bring into the force. So that is the transformation of force structure that we have been working on. I think that we will be able to go up and talk to lawmakers in the very near future. I don't want to frankly get ahead of that. It's very important for us to go and talk to our oversight committees and keep them informed of where we're going. What I can say is reiterate what I had said previously on this, you know, A) We do have what I would call over-structure. Because our end strength has decreased, we have force structure spaces, if you will, that are unmanned right now. We need to shrink the size of that over-structure because essentially, if we don't, it's hollow structure. So, part of what we're doing is driven by the recruiting challenges we've had for the last few years. Part of that force structure transformation is about transforming to build new structure and to figure out what spaces we could afford to take off our books. We did look at a people night court. We looked at basically all of the MOSs and said, do we have to have this many people in these particular types of units? We looked at data showing us how often different kinds of units deploy and where there are kind of units that deploy very rarely. Maybe that's an indication that we could make some shrinks there. We've looked very, very carefully, and this is obviously there's been some attention to this in the press at our Special Operations Forces. Our SOF grew considerably over the last 20 years, given the kinds of wars we were fighting. Meantime, the overall Army has gotten smaller. So, I think there's some room to make some very modest targeted reductions there. And we've worked very closely with SOCOM and SO/LIC on that. So, we're going to get over to congress, I hope, very quickly or very shortly, to be able to talk through what kinds of changes we think we need to make and where those changes would be visible, if you will, across our installations.

George: So, I’ll go quickly on your second one. Retention. We don't take it for granted. I think that's the biggest thing you have to constantly talk to and having command at every level and talk to--everybody makes different decisions about why they're going to stay in the military and what possibilities they get. So, I just think we have to continue to do it. It's still very people intensive and very personal to everybody. And so, I think that we're focused on it. We are doing well. I think people, they like their teammates, they like the mission. Obviously, the Army is very busy, but it's different in different locations. It's probably different in MOSs. In some of the really very skilled MOSs, we spend a lot of time training people to be really good, and I'll give like cyber as an example. They can get out and make a lot of money doing that on the outside. So, we have to constantly look at how we're incentivizing because people want those folks. I don't blame them, but we want to keep them.

Haley Britzky: Thank you. Haley with CNN. On the topic of sort of getting after those different parts of the labor market, outside of just being present, like you said, like digital on these platforms or in the colleges, things like that. Sort of on that note, I know there was a big effort with Futures Command to bring in more of those people who are specialized in these tech cyber areas. What message, different maybe that you are going to want to send to bring people in who have more than a high school degree, who are that much closer to being able to go to industry. They already have a specialized degree. What message are you trying to send to bring them in? And then on that similar topic, I think when we talk about people who are choosing to enlist, oftentimes they are looking at the college benefits, things like that. People that already have those benefits or they've already been through college, how are you going to ensure that the enlisted ranks stay full and they're not just going to officer ranks that are also wanting to enlist despite having more than that high school degree?

Wormuth: A couple of things, and I'll try to be quick. I think in terms of messaging, we need to do a better job of educating the public about the higher tech opportunities, if you will, that the United States Army offers. And I think that's what we would really try to highlight. You know, the fact that we are moving into artificial intelligence, all of the cyber capabilities that we have, electronic warfare, not to mention doctors, nurses, lawyers, data scientists. I think people still tend to think of the United States Army as infantry, you know, armor, that kind of stuff and we're all of that and more. So, I think that's what I would emphasize in terms of the message, if you will.

George: Yeah, and I might not be an infantryman. I'm also going to say that I think most of our MOSs are going to have to be tech enabled. You look at how much the world has changed, every one of our MOS is going to have to deal with tech. So same thing. I was down at Fort Moore and they're doing tiny drones and they have to be fairly computer savvy. So, they have to be a little bit of both, I think, across all of our MOSs. So again, there are the possibilities you can come into the Army and what you can do and I think the ability to advance if they so choose to do it. I always give Tony Grinston, who's our former Sergeant Major of the Army, I served with him in the 173rd. He wasn't interested in becoming an officer. He wanted to do, he did very well as the Sergeant Major of the Army, but that's what he chose to do. So, I think it's just giving everybody the opportunities and talking to them about it. They come in for--we're happy if somebody comes in for one tour or two tours or whatever else it is. I think it'd be great for their lives.

Wormuth: And just to the second part of your question, Haley, on sort know folks who maybe already have college degrees, sort of what's in it for them? You know, I would highlight a couple of things. You know, one, the Army supports higher education for its folks. I mean, one of my security officers, for example, is pursuing his master's degree right now. And then, of course, the GI Bill, as you know, is transferable. So that's a huge thing. Not only can a soldier use it for themselves, they can give it to their spouse or to their kids. That's a huge benefit still.

Mathew Adams: Matthew Adams, Stars and Stripes. A lot of this, when you're talking recruiting, you're going to have to train these recruiters. What are some of the things y’all have looked into at the private sector? What are some of the things that you're hoping you all can do? But what are things that are really weaknesses or areas that these recruiters need to get up to speed on? And then secondly, you mentioned earlier this is going to take years. What's a realistic timetable that y’all are thinking about with these changes and to see things down the line?

Wormuth: Sure.

George: I’ll take a first stab at that. So, I was up at probably been here just this year, eight or ten different recruiting stations. I always talk to the First Sergeants because they've been doing this for a while and they always tell me that when somebody comes in, they can tell within the first hour if somebody's going to really be good at recruiting and how they're going to adapt, because it's a tough mission and different kind of skills. So, I think we have to what the Secretary said earlier, we got to pull that left and pick the right people. We gotta go out to an installation and make sure you got somebody who we're going to pick the people who will thrive in that kind of environment that are good at it and maybe by location. The other thing, and we've already started to do this, is what kind of training can we provide somebody to do. Again, it's a tough mission and a different mission than typically what you're doing. So, providing the right training and because now they're not going to be borrowed for a couple of years and going back, we can really continue to train these people on kind of the best industry practices. What's going on best inside the Army? How they can really become good at that and helping us to tell the Army story and explain to people what they would do inside the military. And then the other thing that I think we have to do better at is the tech, the software. I wouldn't even give us probably a C on some of the software stuff that we do, but I think we have to enable them with the right software so that they can go out and it will make their job easier to reach people and then to interact with them.

Wormuth: And I think on the timeline piece, it's going to take us a little time to work this out. I think we've got to take the next couple of months to really sort of build the plan, if you will, to operationalize these five decisions and then start moving towards implementation. So, some things we’ll be able to do reasonably quickly, like start using an aptitude test to figure out who should come into recruiters, identify our absolute best 79 Romeos, for example, as the seed corn. We can start doing that right away. We can start prototyping some of the digital job boards and things like that. We can start changing our training, but we don't want to fundamentally change our training until we’ve figured out what exactly we need to be training to. So it will be, I think, a multiyear transformation.

Ellee Watson: Hi, Ellee from CBS. You talked about tech. Are there any barriers that the Army faces that the private sector doesn't face in terms of going after people, targeting perspectives, people to join the Army? The second question on the ‘Be all you can be’ campaign, how much was spent on that this year, and is that type of spending going to be the norm going forward on marketing?

Wormuth: I don't have the exact numbers for you on how much we spent on ‘Be all you can be’, but we can get that for you. I think, yes, we're going to continue to invest more in marketing. We still clearly need to be spending more on marketing than we were in the last several years. And the only barrier I can think about in terms of access, if you will, to information for our recruiters is that schools are all supposed to administer the ASVAB, the test to kids in high schools, but there are laws that allow states to opt out of giving that information to our recruiters. And so that's a barrier, if you will, for us. We've actually talked with folks on the hill about different ways to try to really make sure that high schools give us that information reliably.

Geiger: And then just given the timeline, Nancy, you'll be the last question today. I know that we're not going to get to everybody, but I will take follow ups and try to get back to everybody as soon as possible.

Nancy Yossef: Secretary Wormuth, I wanted to follow up with the first point that you made, and then I had a non-related question. You talked about expanding the prospective market. One of the things that the US Military has done is put in waivers for those who have ADHD and they haven't been diagnosed or treated for a certain period of time. I was wondering if we can get numbers on how many of those waivers were part of the 55,000. And as part of the expanding prospective market, if there's any discussion of adding other disorders as other waivers to expand the market, not just for those that are neurotypical. And then I wanted to follow up on Andres' question about ATACMs. Could you give us both broadly a sense of how the continuing resolution and the prospect of further government shutdowns will affect the US Army--US. Military's ability broadly to supply Ukraine weapons? Are there areas that you think that US would be particularly vulnerable in terms of being able to get certain types of artillery or weapons to Ukraine because of some of those issues around that CR and shutdown.

Wormuth: Sure. So, Nancy, we'll get you the number of folks that got waivers that went into our mission this year. We are sort of, I would say, in a constant dialogue with OSD about whether we can expand those waivers in a way that's prudent. So, I'm not aware off the top of my head of anything specific, but we're in sort of a constant dialogue.

Youseff: It can't be just Army specific? The waivers? Like, you couldn't do it just for Army?

SACW: No, most of those things are set at the OSD personnel and readiness level. But obviously recruiting is a challenge for the entire department. And so, P&R is working closely with all the services to try to work on that. And I'll have General George talk about ATACMs. I would say more broadly on Ukraine assistance, you know, Mike McCord's letter that he put out the other day I think really lays out in quite a bit of detail the impacts of Congress not including additional aid for Ukraine as part of the 45-day CR. So, it will have impacts. I would refer you to Mike's letter. I hope very much that we see Congress act on getting some sort of additional funding for Ukraine. That's very important. I think we want to see the Ukrainians succeed. They are eroding Russia's military power, which is in our interest.

George: I would just add two things. We go through a very robust process to determine what we can provide. And the second thing is replenishment is really critical to us. So, if we're going to provide something, we have the ability then to [crosstalk]

Youseff: Is there any sort of particular system that you think is particularly vulnerable in this period in terms of things that you might not be able to provide Ukraine [inaudible]

Wormuth: I was just going to say we could----

George: I’m willing to stay.

Wormuth: Okay. Me too. I was going to say, I’m willing to stay.

Geiger: I didn't want to sign the Secretary or the Chief up for anything else. There we go.

Luis Martinez: Two things. We talked about bringing in the best. How do you incentivize people who are not 79 Romeos who have [inaudible] to make this a career field so that they want to, they can give you the best, and the ones who actually are driven to do this? And we know that it's a difficult cycle right now, recruiting wise for all of the services. So why is the Army's gap so big?

Wormuth: I would say two things, Luis. You're right. We do need to focus on incentives. And historically, going into recruiting in the Army has not necessarily been career enhancing. So, we have to change that signal, if you will. And we've already been working on that. So, for example, there's a scholar’s program that tries to basically say if you're a captain and you come and do a recruiting stint, we will then let you go on and get a master's degree, for example. So, I think incentives will be the additional training, much more specialized, and we will be, again, I think, looking at how do we build a pathway that shows people that they will be promoted over time if they go into this workforce? And that's part of the multiyear transformation. And I'm sorry, remind me the second.

Martinez: Is more pay a part of that, too?

Wormuth: Well, we've been giving incentives, financial incentives, to our recruiters already in this past year. So, I think those kinds of incentives will continue.

George: Can I mention just something else that I think will be an incentive? If you pick somebody because normally you come for a recruiting assignment and then you go is that actually staying in a location, living in San Antonio and kind of coming up through the ranks and doing that in one location would be advantageous. You have a family, spouses employed locally and that's the other reason we're also talking about Warrant Officers that we would have a path to that as well. I think there'll be a combination of things, but I know that oftentimes an incentive is not moving as well.

Martinez: And the gap. Why is the Army's gap so big?

Wormuth: I think it’s that we have a huge recruiting mission. The Marine Corps made its mission, but it was, I think, 33,000 folks. We set a goal that was double that. We're the largest force and I think have the heaviest lift as a result.

Unknown #2: My name [inaudible] My question is Secretary mentioned about the rising [inaudible] and I’m wondering what is the impact of inflation? Because United States has faced a very historical high inflation in the market. What kind of future or [inaudible]?

Wormuth: I think the biggest impact for us of inflation is really looking at and this isn't strictly speaking, just limited to recruiting, but is looking at our pay and making sure that our pay rates, particularly for our most junior soldiers, making sure that that pay is competitive even in the face of inflation. And I think that has been a challenge for lots of service members and families this year. So OSD has started the Quadrennial Military Compensation review that looks at what our pay tables are, and I think we're going to be looking at that carefully given the impact we've seen of inflation.

Tom Bowman: Tom Bowman with NPR. I wanted to follow up on these two questions. Last time we were here, you talked about the need to trim the Army because of the recruiting shortfalls and you said you'd fully man units like the 82nd and the 25th in Hawaii. You said a report would be going to Congress. So, do you have any ballpark on the trims you're looking at? Is it 5000, 10,000, equal to the shortfall in recruiting? And also, as far as trying to recruit those post high school, if you're in a community college, let's say, or first year of Boston College, and you come to me and you say, I want you to become a private, and you say, well, wait a minute. No, I want to go to a ROTC. I want you to pay for it, and I want to go in as an Officer. Are you worried you're going to be maybe top heavy in Officers and people? It's going to be a hard sell to get someone at a university, frankly, to say, yeah, I'm at Brown or Boston College or Syracuse. Yeah, I'll go in as a private.

George: I’ll take the second one. I don't think on the second one there's a whole bunch of people that are going to and I don't know about Brown or other named colleges, but there's a lot of people that go to college and go, okay, I didn't do very well and I wasn't ready for college. So, I think it just depends on the--we're doing very well in officer recruiting. We are. We have met that mission. Obviously, ROTC is doing very well, but there are people that go to a year of college or they go to community college for a year or two and say, yeah, I want to get into cyber, I want to do something with Signal or I want to do something. So, I just think we have to--there's lots of options in the military, lots of options in the Army, and you have to explain what all those options are.

Wormuth: Yeah. Just to add to that, I can think of at least two individuals who have college degrees that I know who are either wanting to be NCOs or who are right now NCOs, but want to stay in that kind of role because frankly, they don't want to do the staff jobs that officers have to do. So, I think part of it is individuals, what they want to do, and what they want to value. Going to Tom, the first part of your question, the Army, and again, I do not want to get ahead of talking to our oversight committees, but I would say a couple of years ago, Army end strength was up at 485,000. Now we're at 453. As I said, that's a lot of over-structure. We need to bring that down substantially. So, we're not going to bring it all the way down to exactly match four 453K. I think we can safely carry some amount of structure that isn't fully manned, but we need to close it substantially because it's just not healthy for us to carry a bunch of unmanned space.

Bowman: And this would be at bases all around the country?

Wormuth: That's right. But the other thing I would say, and I think this is a really important part of the story, is all around the country we have installations that are manned with people right now. We only have 453,000 folks in the active duty Army. So, the numbers at Fort Riley, Fort Cavazos, you name it, is already lower than what they're authorized. It's basically kind of comparing your accounting books with authorizations to the real soldiers who are there every day working on posts. And that personnel assigned number is already below the authorized number in most installations across America.

Dan Lamothe: Hi, thanks for your time this morning. Dan Lamothe with The Washington Post. I  wanted to ask you about college debt. It seems to me we've talked in a couple different ways about trying to get at people who have spent some time in college trying to address bonuses, things of that sort. There's a lot of reporting on how college debt has skyrocketed. The price of a degree has skyrocketed. How does that create opportunities for the Army specifically marketing that idea, talking to students who are looking at it, saying, I'm up against 100, whatever thousand dollars that I need to make up, and then that's probably good spot to leave. Thanks.

Wormuth: We do have a student loan repayment program, and I know that that is something that our recruiters talk about. I don't know, General George, you know more about it.

George: We are talking--exactly what you're--we have talked about debt on how we would do that. There are some restrictions about how much you would spend, you know, and how you would do that. Obviously, you could come in right now and say you could sign up for an MOS and get a bonus and that could go towards paying whatever you wanted to use with your bonus. But yeah, there has been some discussions on that. I don't have a plan for you, but we are--we'll get to that with experimentation. If you’ve got any good ideas, let us know. [laughter] There's some big college debt out there. So, I know that's another reason why sometimes people stop, like, okay, I'm not doing well in college and I'm spending a whole bunch of money. Not a good idea. There's other options out there.

Gordon Lubold: All the fighting about Ukraine on the hill notwithstanding, we're starting to see flagging support of regular Americans for continuing support for Ukraine. And I'm wondering if at the same time, Americans don't see what US Army troops are doing to support Ukraine and other countries. And much of this war has been like in the shadows for most Americans. I'm just wondering, A) If you see a connection between your own struggles with recruiting Americans flagging support for the war in Ukraine, and the fact that nobody really know what troops are doing to support the war.

Wormuth:  I think, Gordon, I don't think there's a connection between the challenges that we've seen with recruiting and Americans not necessarily having all the information about what we're doing. I think we've done a lot of surveys and things like that to try to understand what are the obstacles to recruiting. And I think they're much more on the social side and much more individually based. That said, I know General George and I, at every opportunity try to talk about what the United States Army is doing to support the Ukrainians. And we've been doing a lot. I am hugely proud of what we've done. We have given billions of dollars of equipment, obviously everything from patriot to tanks now to tons and tons and tons of munitions. We've obviously played a huge role in training the Ukrainians directly. Our troops are in Europe right now, standing shoulder to shoulder with our NATO allies. So, I think we do have to continue talking about that at every opportunity. And I think we need to talk to Americans very clearly about why it is in our national interest to continue supporting the Ukrainians in their fight against Russia. And again, I think a key issue is they are eroding the strength of the Russian military, which is in our benefit. I also would say to Americans, it's our workers, our industry who are building those shells, who are building those tanks. We are opening new plants in different locations around the country to gen up GMLRS, 155-millimeter shells, and all of that. That's good for our economy and good for our workers.

Lubold: You just don't see it. Americans don't see it because so much of it is so hard. And as reporters, I think we all share the frustration that you just can't cover this war. Anyway, it’s just kind of interesting to me that some of these things might----

Wormuth: Yeah. I would say that as General George said [crosstalk]

George: I've never heard that at a [crosstalk] recruiting station, though, somebody come up because I always ask them, hey, what are you hearing? What's going on locally? And typically, that is not part of the discussions there. I'm not saying that's not out there. Again, it's all the other I think that contributes to a little bit of maybe the polarization on one side or the other and what people's views may have, but I've not heard it specifically.

Hiroshi Kajiyama: I'm Hiroshi Kajiyama. I’m with Japanese newspaper. I'd like to ask about transgender issue. So, under Biden administration, they had allowed transgender people to engage in the military. But there is an argument that transgender recruitment of transgender people would undermine the regiments. What is your answer? And I'm just wondering how the consultation or a plan to deploy the Army multi-domain task force to Japan and other nations?

Wormuth: Sure. Why don't I take transgender and you talk MDTF in INDOPACOM. Our policy in the Biden administration is if, you know, you are medically, physically, emotionally able to serve and want to serve, you are welcome. So transgender people who can meet our standards can come and serve in the United States Army. And I think we have transgender individuals who are in the force right now serving ably. But it's all about making sure that you can meet the standards.

George: I just was over in Japan, met with the Chief Morishita, General Morishita, on the multi domain task force. It's obviously a very important capability, I think, for us in the US Army and for the joint force. It's out in INDOPACOM. It's been operating as part of exercises, and we've been doing that as part of the exercises also with the Japanese Self Defense Force. So, whether or not it is stationed and where it's stationed, I think those are sovereign decisions that Japan will make. And we'll just continue to work together. I think we're definitely doing that at the Army to Army level. We got Yama Sakura coming up. We just finished Orion Shield, so we're training together a whole bunch with the Japanese Army.

Geiger: All right, so I think that that covers everybody in the room. I think we are probably at time now, though, so we'll go ahead and end it there. I know that we didn't get to the people who dialed in, and if you dialed in and have a question, please just shoot it my way and I'll make sure that you get an answer for it. But thank you all for being here today. We really appreciate it.

Wormuth: Yeah, I just want to thank you all so much, both for covering this issue. It helps us, obviously, when you all cover this issue, it helps us try to talk about what we're doing. But Gordon, to your point, more broadly, just really appreciate all of you for covering things that the United States Army is doing. It is hard sometimes to get that word out there, and you all are really important messengers for us, so thank you.

George: If you need our QR code for--we're happy to provide that to you [laughter]. Thanks, everybody.

Geiger: Thank you.