Culture change needed to address military staffing shortage
The Defense Department has a longstanding staffing problem when it comes to the number of officers for its units, according to a new report released Feb. 11 by the Center for Naval Analyses. The number of officers serving in some units, like those that are currently operating in Iraq, has dropped or stagnated following years of increases. In other words, there’s a shortage of qualified officers for units in Iraq when compared with prior years.
According to the report, the Pentagon has been facing a “cultural imbalance” when it comes to officer candidate recruitment and retention. The center reports that the number of commissioned officers for units in Iraq declined by 7 percent from 2008 to 2011. In other words, the number of officers with a commission was down more than 10 percent since 2008.
The report also highlights problems related to officer recruitment for units at bases near Iraq. The center estimates there were 100 officer vacancies in the Navy and Air Force in March 2011. This is the first time in four years there have been 100 vacancies in those two services.
CNA said the drop or stagnation of officer recruitment has been reflected in a wider shortage of Army officers. While it is difficult to know for sure how many officers are serving in those units, CNA estimates there were 90 vacancies for Army officers in 2012, compared with 100 vacancies in 2008.
The shortage of Army and Navy officers combined is now more than 7,000. At the same time, the number of Army officers in the Navy has increased from 100 to 110, while the number of Navy officers has increased from 90 to 110.
The report does not offer a definitive explanation for the shortages, but it does offer some ideas. CNA says there has been a significant change in the way the Army recruits officers. For example, it now has a two-year recruiting requirement, which is unusual. The Army also says it must recruit qualified, experienced officers to fill vacancies, instead of relying on officers with less experience.
The report also suggests that the Army may need to change its method for recruiting officers in the future to address the shortage. In the past, it has been recruiting officers through its National Guard and Reserve forces.
The report also raises questions about the future staffing of other Army units, such as the Special Forces Command, which currently