Recruiting tech glitch adds to military's recruiting struggles

The U.S. Navy, Army and Air Force all faced recruiting shortfalls this year thanks to labor market competition. But challenges include inadequate recruiting technology.

Except for the Marines and the Space Force, the U.S. military is broadly missing its recruiting goals. Top recruiters from the armed services blame a highly competitive labor market and the declining interest of young people to serve.

Certain military branches are trying to do more with recruiting technology to counter this. But in some cases, technology might be working against their recruiting efforts.

The military's electronic health record system might deter potential recruits from joining, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said at a hearing this week held by the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services' Subcommittee on Personnel.

The Military Health System's electronic health record system, MHS Genesis, appears to be flagging applicants with manageable or long-healed injuries, triggering a requirement for the recruit to obtain a medical waiver before they can join, Warren said.

Defense Department data for 2022 showed that one out of every six recruits needed a medical waiver, the highest proportion in the last 10 years, Warren noted. The Army, for instance, said the medical waiver process added 70 days or longer to the application process.

Warren said the medical waiver issue becomes a bigger problem "if all of that red tape is causing some healthy applicants to drop out of the recruitment process altogether."

The MHS Genesis system was developed by the Leidos Partnership for Defense Health, which was funded through a $4.3 billion Defense Department effort to build an electronic health record system. Leidos is a technology provider based in Reston, Va., primarily serving the government market. In response to a question by TechTarget Editorial about Warren's claims, the company said it had no comment.

There is a declining propensity to serve [and] intense competition for talent in a surplus U.S. job market.
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Amrhein

If Warren's assertion is correct, the medical waiver issue could be exacerbating a broader military recruiting problem. Only the Marines and the Space Force met their recruiting goals for the fiscal year that ended Oct. 1.

Recruiting shortfalls

The Navy, for instance, aimed to recruit nearly 38,000 sailors, but only recruited about 30,000, or 80% of its goal. The Army and Air Force had similar shortfalls.

Several factors contribute to the failure to reach recruiting targets, including a "declining propensity to serve [and] intense competition for talent in a surplus U.S. job market," Air Force Brig. Gen. Christopher Amrhein said at the hearing.

The Army is exploring different types of recruiting technology to see if it can boost recruitment. This also includes "growing our analytical capability" to incentivize and position recruiters "in the right place with the right training, products and tools," Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis said.

In October, the Army made some changes to its recruiting. Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said that unlike the private sector, the Army doesn't have a specialized permanent recruiting workforce, and that's something it is changing with a new military occupation specialty for recruiters.

The Army also acknowledges that it needs to improve its recruiting software.

"I wouldn't even give us probably a C" on some of the software, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George said at a media roundtable in October.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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