Army Seeking Retirees To Come Back To Work Amid Manpower Crisis

Gen. David W. Allvin, the 23rd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, participates in the Washington Commanders Salute to Service game alongside senior leaders and service members representing all branches of the Department of Defense, FedEx Field, Landover, Maryland, Nov. 19, 2023. Salute to Service represents the NFL's dedication to honoring, empowering, and connecting with service members, veterans, and their families. (U.S. Army National Guard photo by Sgt. 1st Class Zach Sheely)

The Army is seeking to bring back retired soldiers to fill critical manpower shortages, according to a service-wide directive published this week.

The All Army Activities (ALARACT) document describes how Army retirees can find and apply for open positions and aims to maintain a sufficient number of personnel to fill all of the Army’s authorized positions. The message comes as the service has publicly acknowledged struggles to balance a shrinking workforce with the demands of sprawling global mission sets as recruitment woes persist for a third year in a row.

“A review of commands’ requests for [the] fill of authorized personnel vacancies, in conjunction with current Army manning guidance, prompted review of how the Army can fill key and critical position vacancies,” the document stated, outlining the current situation. “The retiree recall program can be an effective tool to fill personnel shortages of authorized regular Army vacancies that are considered key and essential.”

It was unclear whether the Army had already identified manning shortages to be filled or was issuing the message in anticipation of future need. The Army did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s comments by deadline.

Any Army, Reserve or National Guard soldier who qualifies as retired or will soon be retired — meaning they achieved at least 20 years of service — and anyone receiving retired pay is eligible to apply, the message states. Neither age nor disability, alone, would exclude a soldier from joining depending on the disability, and they would still have to meet the Army’s health requirements.

“There is no age limitation, although personnel older than 70 are not normally recalled,” the message states.

Those who apply for the program essentially lets the Army send them orders to return to active duty if a critical role opens that no one else can fill. However, the message does not authorize any special pay or incentives.

The publication initially sparked confusion and irony among military professionals online regarding the program’s voluntary nature and whether it indicated deeper manning issues.

“The Army does have significant manpower shortages, but they are concentrated at the lower enlistment grades due to the recruiting crisis,” retired Lt. Col. Thomas Spoehr, an expert on defense policy and strategy and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the DCNF. “So I am not sure this particular message does indicate a problem, since retirees are old.”

However, the Army recently acknowledged a persistent problem with roles that go unfilled for too long and proposed a reorganization that would cut down on the number of open positions by thousands.

After a year-long review of the Army’s existing force structure, published late February, the service concluded that the number and specialization of positions comprising the force did not match up with the changing security environment.

The Army is “over-structured, meaning there are not enough soldiers to fill out existing units and organizations,” the review stated. It emphasized the cuts are coming to “authorizations (spaces)” not “individual soldiers (faces).”

The Army’s current force structure assumes an active duty end strength — or total number of troops — of 494,000, according to the document. Congress capped end strength at 445,000 in the fiscal year 2024 defense policy bill, a historically low number as the Army struggled to recruit enough soldiers to meet end strength goals.

Officials justified cutting 24,000 roles that have been left empty as the Army deals with its worst-ever recruiting crisis as helping ensure the service only plans to assign and deploy the people it has available, cutting down on strain and allowing for more realistic planning.

Micaela Burrow on March 22, 2024

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