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Kit Plummer
Software Engineer :: Techitect :: Evangelist
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Recruiting is a growing problem for the branches of the Military. If the state of the “battle” continues on it’s current path – it will prove to be somewhat insurmountable.

The real problem lies with the “skillz” needed by our soldiers, airmen, seaman (and Marines), as well as coasties. Where the military has typically “trained” to reach the required performance – the cost to do so is growing beyond the ability to recover the investment within four years.

Obviously I’m really only addressing the problem as it relates to “technical” skillsets…like Math and Science. For example…I’m a high school student excelling in Mathematics and Science (possibly Computer Science). I have the choice of either attending a four year school, graduating, getting a job making 65K/year; attending a four year school, graduating, getting commissioned as an officer and making ~32K/year; or enlisting and earning ~17K/for the first year. Here’s the real problem. It would take almost 8 years from the military route’s pay to double…assuming “good” behavior. If I were an exceptional professional I could double my pay within 5 – easily.

Air Force’s Cyber Command recruiting commercial does an excruciatingly painful job at trying to be cool to this crowd. The first problem with this…is that it shows “operators” clicking on a touch screen. Operators are literally just that. What it doesn’t address is the intelligence that is really required…the engineering mindset (social or technical).

Also, operators don’t develop the systems (really no one serving does) – federal contractors do. The “touch screen” technology as well as the command and control applications are an example of such a case. The military branches are also competing with the folks that actually engineer the stuff. However, having served in the Air Force I know there is a lot more to operating and maintaining – thus the fairly lengthy technical schooling session plus constant on-the-job training. And, back to my original assertion that from an investment perspective this may be an insurmountable problem.

This Air Force commercial is a little better – but, notice that the guy is a captain. The majority of the people in the video are not. The reality is that our Air Force’s “network” war is being fought by high-school graduates.

Navy Seal Recruiting Commercial

But, let’s be real – we all know that these are just commercials and don’t truly represent like this one
</less serious moment>

Ok, seriously. Here’s the wiki entry on Air Force’s recently established Cyber Command:

This is serious stuff; seriously technical stuff, requiring massive innovation to stay in the lead. Basically, what is happening is that the Air Force and Navy are recruiting against the likes of Google, Microsoft, Cisco and Garmin. I’m sure that these guys aren’t even aware. But, I’m equally sure that the Air Force and Navy are.

Patriotism aside I can’t arrive at any logical solution that would lead me to the military – especially based on the pay potential. The “funding” for school doesn’t cover the difference in salary over the first four years either. My oldest son is already talking about going to the Air Force Academy. Fortunately, I am a patriot and so is my wife who is a Captain in the Air National Guard. But, we are the minority for sure.

I don’t think this is a winnable war for either the Air Force or the Navy unless they throw the right incentives. Pay is a good starting point…though I don’t see this as the ultimate solution. I’ll throw this last idea out there as a parting shot. What if the Air Force offered college grads with direct job placement into the top federal contractors (guaranteed) and possibly with commercial companies like those mentioned above – after their commission and duty time is served? This is a positive for all stakeholders. The Air Force ensures that there needs flow in to the contractors. The contractors ensure they get personnel that understands the problems. And, the individual gets a job that allows them to take advantage of all their knowledge, skills and abilities.

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