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.