Attrition: Recruiting the Breathless


August 3, 2007: In order to increase the recruits pool by about 400,000 people, Australia will now accept recruits with mild cases of asthma. A study was done, and it indicated that those with "mild intermittent" or "mild persistent" cases could serve in many military jobs, without being a danger to themselves, or those around them.

Earlier, the armed forces had loosened its restrictions on taking recruits with convictions for minor drug offences. This is now reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Tattoos and piercings are no longer an absolute no-no for new recruits.

Australia is also spending several hundred million dollars to attract new recruits, and to keep existing troops in uniform. Australia wants to increase its troop strength by 6,000 over the next ten years. Australia's volunteer armed forces have only 52,000 personnel. On a per capita basis, that's much smaller than the American volunteer force. For example, the U.S. has a population 14 times larger than Australia's, but has active duty armed forces (of 1.1 million) 21 times larger. Australia has always maintained very high standards for its recruits, and these standards may have to be lowered if they want to maintain their current strength. The major problem is a record low unemployment rate. The military has to compete with more attractive civilian jobs.

To make a military career more attractive, Australia is cutting some of the paperwork and waiting time for new recruits. Previously, recruits had to wait about 30 weeks before they started their service. This was cut to six weeks. The military now more tolerant the foibles of youth. Italso allowed a thousand recruits to join for just one year. This is an experiment, because normally troops sign up for multi-year contracts. Following the successful experience in the United States and other countries, Australia is also developing a re-enlistment bonus system to keep needed troops in uniform.


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