WASHINGTON, DC - Today, Rep. Trent Kelly (R-MS), Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel, made the following remarks, as prepared for delivery, on the Subcommittee's hearing titled “Military Personnel Management – How Are the Military Services Adapting to Recruit, Retain, and Manage High Quality Talent to Meet the Needs of a Modern Military?"
"Thank you, Chairwoman Speier.
"I wish to welcome our witnesses to today’s hearing. I also want to congratulate Vice Admiral Burke on his nomination as the next Vice Chief of Naval Operations.
"We cannot overstate the central role that our service members play in making the United States the most lethal military in the World. This strategic advantage is due in large part to the high accession and retention standards that the military services have established and continue to maintain. However, in this extremely strong economy, with a record low unemployment rate, and a low propensity to serve among our young people, it is not surprising that the pool of eligible applicants is extremely small.
"Given the challenging recruiting environment, it is crucial that the services leverage every tool available to understand what motivates qualified individuals to serve in the military. In addition, once qualified applicants are recruited into the military, it is essential that the services efficiently and effectively identify and retain the most talented service members.
"To that end, Congress has given significant additional authorities to the Defense Department to ensure they have the flexibility to recruit and retain a talented, competitive, and lethal force. However, before making additional changes to personnel management, we need to clearly understand the problem. Our previous hearing on this topic with outside experts reinforced the premise that we need to clearly understand why service members are electing to get out of the military and to understand what would have kept them in the service. The Defense Department already has much of the data necessary to answer these questions, but I remain concerned that the Department is not maximizing their use of this information in order to make informed policy decisions.
"I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today about the current efforts to effectively retain qualified service members. Specifically, what data do the services use to understand what motivates service members to remain in the service? In addition, I am interested to hear what additional policy changes the services have made to the evaluation system, promotion system, and assignment system to identify and retain talent.
"I am also interested to understand this year’s end strength requests, and what those numbers will buy us in terms of readiness. Will the requested end strength increases simply round out existing units, or will it allow the services to populate additional units or platforms. In addition, I am interested to hear about the services’ goals for end strength increases over the next five years.
"Finally, I believe family services are directly related to retention. The old adage is true--you recruit the soldier, but you retain the family. I am particularly concerned about the severe shortage of quality military childcare. Recent statistics we received from the Department reveal that there are several installations where the average wait time for on-installation childcare is in excess of 180 days. This is problematic not just for working families, but also for spouses who are hoping to look for work. If they have limited access to childcare, how can they seek employment? This is unacceptable, and I would like to know what the services are doing to ensure families are receiving the support they need, including meaningful access to childcare.
"Once again, I want to thank our witnesses for being here and for their decades of service, and I yield back."