NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Recruiting Women Into Military Not Paying Off

July 7, 1999

Large proportions of women entering the armed services are not staying long enough to complete their enlistment contracts, experts report. These high attrition rates are creating major headaches for the Pentagon.

  • Some 43 percent of women who joined the Army in 1995 failed to complete their enlistment contracts, along with 28 percent of men.
  • Over 50 percent of white women who joined that year have left.
  • The cost for recruiting and training a soldier is about $35,000.
  • According to a recent survey, a record-high 55 percent of 16- to 21-year-old men say they definitely would not join the Army, compared to only 12 percent who say they definitely or probably will -- down from more than 17 percent in 1991.

While it had been thought that women could make up the shortfall of recruits among men, experts are beginning to challenge the wisdom of trying attract women to military service. That's because of the high costs involved. Training expenses are wasted when half the women decide to leave.

Contributing to the scarcity of new recruits is the fact that the number of young people available for military service has dropped dramatically -- from 9.5 million in 1986 to 7.8 million a decade later.

In an effort to fill quotas and compete with attractive job offers available in today's booming economy, the military services are offering up to $50,000 in college money to new recruits and signing bonuses of up to $12,000.

The Navy is spending $80 million on a new ad campaign, adding 44 percent more recruiters and opening 177 more recruiting offices. For the first time ever, the Air Force has bought television time for commercials.

Source: Brian Mitchell, "The Armed Forces' Gender Gap," Investor's Business Daily, July 6, 1999.


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