Maintaining the Leader Advantage in Future Multi-Domain Operations
Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey A. Guida
October 1, 2021
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In a post-pandemic era of great power competition, people, as key enabler[s] of American readiness,
will only become more critical (Moore & Martinez, 2020, para. 12)
An all-volunteer military is no stranger to recruitment and retention challenges. The
global pandemic, political tensions, lure of
the civilian sector, and challenges of keeping up with
ever-evolving technology are obstacles hindering today’s
recruiting needs. However, to be successful with
tomorrow’s weapons and equipment, today’s leaders
must take immediate steps to secure requisite national
talent and skills. Army leaders must understand the
future operational environment and improve policies
to recruit and retain talented Soldiers to maintain the
advantage in multi-domain operations (MDO).
Future Operational Environment
The U.S. Army continues to procure and operationalize
technology to leverage its advantages over adversaries.
The future operational environment will be
complex, fluid, and encompass all domains to include
emerging technology such as artificial intelligence and
autonomous systems (AI/AS).
Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems
Artificial intelligence and autonomous systems are
already prevalent in today’s society. From smart homes to
self-driving cars, they have evolved and integrated continuously for convenience (West & Allen, 2018). This advanced technology is already operational in several military
applications. From unmanned aerial attacks to unmanned
ground vehicle reconnaissance, these modern systems add
a crucial dimension to the battlefield but require skilled
operators to monitor them, conduct maintenance, and
establish parameters, boundaries, and commander’s intent.
Some national defense strategists believe China is already
on par with the U.S. in military AI/AS capabilities (Hodge
et al., 2020). To maintain the advantage in MDO, the U.S.
Army must recruit and retain Soldiers who understand and
integrate these systems as well as leverage the increasing
role of the cyber and space domains.
Current Army Retention and Recruitment Challenges
The U.S. Army faces difficult obstacles in not only
increasing the force, but also increasing the talent base.
According to Maj. Gen. Joseph McGee, former director,
Army Talent Management Task Force, “At the core,
what we’re trying to do is to move the Army from a
very industrial age approach to how we manage people”
(Seffers, 2020, para. 3). Three areas that can be adapted
and improved on to entice current and future talent are
compensation, family stress, and eligibility.
The Army has recently taken strides to improve
Soldiers’ quality of life and promotion programs, such as
implementing the tenant bill of rights (assurances of safe,
quality, and well-maintained housing) and shifting to evaluation
boards over promotion boards; however, they have yet to keep up with the pay compared to the
civilian sector (Tilghman & Copp, 2018).
Because of a high operational tempo/
rotation schedule, Soldiers and their families
may experience frequent periods of
stress from long separations and numerous
moves. Every time a family moves it must
consider spousal employment, adjusting
to a new community, the financial strain
of relocating, and stress on their children
(Lilley, 2018). This is also compounded by
the fact that many Soldiers spend a large
amount of time away from their families
during deployments causing missed
milestone events such as births/birthdays,
graduations, and anniversaries.
The U.S. Army must draw from the same societal pool
as civilian sector employers. Two areas where prospective
recruiting falls short are physical fitness and a lack
of focus on prior service. According to Mcmahon and
Bernard (2019), the largest discriminator is that 27% of
applicants cannot meet fitness standards due to obesity.
They also claim the Army’s policy on recruiting prior-
service Soldiers is restrictive and hinders the Army
from attaining high-quality potential Soldiers.
Enticing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today
The Army should continue to increase Soldier base pay
but must incentivize unique skills and talents with special pay
that would further influence talented people to join the military
rather than work in the private sector. Furthermore, the
Army should invest more of its budget on retaining talented,
well-trained Soldiers who contribute to the mission.
The Army should also capitalize on professional certifications
such as Security+ and Project Management Professional
(Project Management Institute, n.d.). Professional
certifications and targeted education will increase the Army’s
desirability and afford investment in long-term success.
Reduce Family Stress
As the Army’s charge is to fight and win the nation’s
wars, the requirement for training or deploying will always
be necessary. This need will continue to cause stress to
family units. However, because much of MDO can be executed
from any location, especially AI/AS and cyber, the Army can mitigate some stress by decreasing separations
and PCS moves. Minimizing how often a family moves,
and the associated stressors, could greatly benefit job
satisfaction and increase Soldiers’ probability of re-enlistment.
Incorporating less human-on-human interactions,
could save money through fewer deployments and family
moves, while leading to higher retention rates.
Since obesity in the general population is on the rise,
the Army can implement a Pre-Basic Training Fitness
Program that would place potential Soldiers who meet
all other enlistment requirements except fitness into a
special reception battalion focused on holistic fitness and
health for two months prior to basic training. This way
recruits would have a better opportunity to complete
basic training and be a force multiplier (Guida, 2021).
Additionally, the Army should update its policies on recruiting
prior-service members. Prior-service Soldiers are a
unique asset to the Army not only because they have experience
and education from their prior service, but they may
also have earned civilian experience and education, which
can multiply their talent and benefit the Army’s mission.
McMahon and Bernard (2019) state “The military needs to
adopt a comparable policy and reward prior-service candidates
with exceptional performance and accomplishments
outside the services by re-enlisting them at a higher rank”
(p. 93). If the Army exerts more focus on prior-service Soldiers
who are capable of supporting MDO, they can quickly
fill and maintain a pool of talented Soldiers.
Recruiting and retention challenges are a normal part
of military operations but are now more significant as
the level of talent must meet the level of technology. As
the future of war shifts into MDO, Army leaders must
understand the future operational environment, current
recruitment and retention issues, and improve policies
to entice talented Soldiers to join and remain in order to
retain the talent advantage in MDO.
Hodge, R., Rotner, J. B., Baron, I. M., Kotras, D. M., & Worley, D. (2020). Designing a new narrative to build an AI-ready workforce. Mitre. https://www.mitre.org/publications/technical-papers/designing-a-new-narrative-to-build-an-ai-ready-workforce
McMahon, C. J., & Bernard, C. J. (2019). Storm clouds on the horizon: Challenges and recommendations for military recruiting and retention. Naval War College Review, 72(3), 84-100. https://lumen.cgsccarl.com/login?url=https://www-proquest-com.lumen.cgsccarl.com/docview/2246150612?accountid=28992
Moore, E. & Martinez, M. (2020). It’s only going to get harder to recruit and retain troops in a post-pandemic world. Defense One. https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2020/05/its-only-going-get-harder-recruit-and-retain-troops-post-pandemic-world/165555/
Project Management Institute. (n.d.). Project management professional.. https://www.pmi.org/certifications/project-management-pmp
Seffers, G. I. (2020). U.S. Army officials aim to win the war for talent. AFCEA. https://www.afcea.org/content/us-army-officials-aim-win-war-talent
Tilghman, A. & Copp, T. (2018). Military vs. civilian: Which pays better? Military Times. https://www.militarytimes.com/pay-benefits/military-pay-center/2018/01/10/military-vs-civilian-which-pays-better/
West, D. M., & Allen, J. R. (2018). How artificial intelligence is transforming the world. Brookings. https://www.brookings.edu/research/how-artificial-intelligence-is-transforming-the-world/
Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey A. Guida is the Eighth Army equal opportunity program sergeant major at Camp Humphreys, South Korea. His previous assignments include: Student at the Sergeant’s Major Academy; battalion operations sergeant and Headquarters and Headquarters Company first sergeant, 92nd Engineer Battalion, at Fort Stewart, Georgia. He has deployed multiple times in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Spartan Shield. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering Technology from Old Dominion University.
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