The Department of Defense (DoD) has a renewed focus on modernizing its hiring process and investing in cyber education to improve recruitment and retention stats as it looks ahead at its Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

High ranking DoD officials discussed their latest initiatives when they testified at a March 11 hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Health Affairs Thomas McCaffery explained that to combat malicious actors in an evolving threat landscape, DoD must recruit and retain “the best people America has to offer.”

“The department understands we are facing a competitive job market and recruiting from a digital generation. With technology changing modern warfare, we are actively pursuing innovative recruiting and retention measures to attract and keep technologically inclined and savvy individuals,” he said.

Outdated models that treat candidates as interchangeable are not longer effective, McCaffery continued. To combat this, service branches like the Army are working on a talent-based market for job assignments.

E. Casey Wardynski, assistant secretary of the Army for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, called this new market the “most significant modernization of our personnel system.” It launched in Fall 2019 to a limited sector of the force, but will be fully available to both reserve and active members by 2022. With this system, hiring professionals will be able to see talent across the Army and find candidates with the most closely aligned skills to fill vacant positions.

DoD is also, based on a guidance in the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act, launching online computer science and cybersecurity instruction in select schools as a pilot program by 2022. “Our effort here is designed to capture the imagination of young adults and redress the issue of what many believe is only 30 percent of young adults are eligible and could enter the military. We need to begin educating them much earlier about the opportunities afforded in the military,” Wardynski said.

Because of recent modernization efforts, including a focus on better customer service and a transition to mobile apps, the retention rate is now the highest the department has ever seen, according to Vice Admiral John B. Nowell, deputy chief of naval operations for Manpower, Personnel, Training, and Education.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.