The US Army has announced it will boast its sign-on bonuses to a maximum amount of $50,000 over the course of six years in an attempt to bridge the gap in its recruiting goals. It comes during a time wherein the US military missed its recruitment goals for almost all of the services in 2021, according to CNN.
In 2021, the US Army missed its goal of 10,400 by 3,060, recruiting only 7,340 new army members by the end of November 2021. Now
Bonuses are nothing new for the recruiting of new Army personnel. In 2018, despite putting $200 million into bonuses, the US Army missed its recruiting goal by over 6,000. In 2021, the US Army missed its goal of 10,400 by 3,060. Recruiting only 7,340 new army members by the end of November 2021. Now the US Army aims to change their recruitment fate, with even more money.
“How we incentivise is absolutely essential. And that is absolutely something that we know that is important to trying to get somebody to come and join the military.”
“We are still living the implications of 2020 and the onset of COVID, when the school systems basically shut down”, Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, the head of Army Recruiting Command told AP. “We lost a full class of young men and women that we didn’t have contact with, face-to-face. We’re in a competitive market. How we incentivise is absolutely essential. And that is absolutely something that we know that is important to trying to get somebody to come and join the military.”
‘71% of people ages 17 to 24 are ineligible for US Military’
Within the US, eligibility is one of the biggest reasons for a lack of suitable candidates. According to a Bloomberg report, a staggering 71% of people ages 17 to 24 are unable to join the military due to a variety of reasons. Those reasons include obesity, a lack of high school diploma or a criminal record. “That means the remaining age cohort is the prime attraction for all recruiting from not just the military, but also colleges and employers”, as per the Bloomberg report.
A staggering 71% of people ages 17 to 24 are unable to join the military due to a variety of reasons.
In May 2021, the US Army launched an anime-animated series in an attempt to speak to one of the toughest generations to recruit: Gen Z. The series, entitled The Calling, tells the tale of several older teens who became military members, illustrating what drove people just like them to sign up for military service. In 2021, the US Army had about $425 million available for marketing efforts.
Less bonus money in Europe
As countries all over the world struggle to hire enough members of the military — and the US refills its bonus pot — European countries have typically relied less heavily on money as an incentive to achieve recruiting goals. And if they do, bonuses are nowhere near as high. While the average soldier cost the US Army approximately $33k in bonus money to recruit, Germany paid no recruitment and retention bonuses to career soldiers in 2020.
Germany paid no recruitment and retention bonuses to career soldiers in 2020.
For a full grasp of the state of armies throughout Europe, we must first look at the reported net flow. In other words: how many people came in, and how many people came out? For both the UK and the Netherlands — 2021 became a positive year based on those statistics. Despite the pandemic, the British Army reported a positive net flow of personnel for the second year running. After 20-odd years where the outflow had generally been larger than the inflow, 2021 proved to be another positive year for the recruitment of new forces personnel. In total, the British Army intake was 17,073 while outflow was 13,846, as per the most recent Commons Library Research Briefing of 11 January 2022.
Inflow and outflow: not the whole story
The Royal Netherlands Army also saw similar results in terms of its net flow in 2021. For the first time in 7 years, the army saw a positive net flow. Despite the fact that it was able to recruit roughly half the number of what it was able to recruit in 2020 and 2019. The reason for the relatively low net inflow is threefold, as explained in the Royal Netherlands Army’s latest report.
In total, the British Army intake was 17,073 while outflow was 13,846. For the first time in 7 years, the Royal Netherlands army saw a positive net flow.
The Royal Netherlands Army decided on a new policy to give all sufficiently functioning officers and non-commissioned officers who worked on a temporary contract a permanent appointment. Moreover, they retained older servicemen through a new end-of-service-arrangement, which meant they would be discharged at a later age. Finally, they saw job and income security through the COVID-19 pandemic as a primary reason for personnel to stay on board.
Unfilled vacancies across the board
But for both armies, and armies all over the world, it has been a fairly typical case in recent years where they aren’t able to fill anywhere near enough vacancies. As of July 2021, the Dutch Defense had 8.637 unfilled vacancies — as they work with a capacity of roughly 80% regular military functions. “Many regular military functions are now being done by civilian personnel”, the report states. The issues have resulted in marine trips being shortened due to a lack of personnel.
“In the German army, only about 60% of the posts for officers in the area of aircraft engineering personnel are filled.”
Similar sounds come out of the German Army (Bundeswehr), which saw around 20,200 military personnel positions above junior ranks unfilled at the end of 2020. That equates to around 82% capacity, as 18% of vacancies remain unfilled. The Bundeswehr reported that highly specialised technical and medical skills were the primary issue. “In the Army, like in the previous year, only about 60% of the posts for officers in the area of aircraft engineering personnel are filled.”
“It will be an enormous task to recruit enough replacements for the Belgium army.”
Belgium’s military force has also seen similar personnel issues — and is one cited as ‘in transformation’. In the next three years, Belgium will have lost approximately 5,500 members of the military over the course of five years due to its ageing workforce. “It will be an enormous task to recruit enough replacements”, said Ludivine Dedonder, the Belgian Minister of Defense, who announced that the country would look to hire a total of 2,300 military personnel positions within that same span.
Despite well-directed and flashy recruitment video’s, armies all over the world have struggled to hire enough personnel. Now, during a time when shortages are slowly becoming the norm across several sectors, it seems like armies will suffer a similar fate. While higher recruitment and retention bonuses could lead to short-term fixes, it remains to be seen whether it will have any real impact on whether recruitment goals will be accomplished.