Carter seeks increased geographic diversity among military recruits

By Tony Bertuca / November 1, 2016 at 11:40 AM

Defense Secretary Ash Carter today announced new initiatives to improve military recruitment and strengthen the Reserve Officers' Training Corps in the hopes of accessing more diverse American communities.

"Geographically, our military's recruiting pool is shrinking, with more and more of our people coming from fewer and fewer states," he said in prepared remarks for a speech at the City College of New York.

Carter noted that rural Americans are two times more likely to join the military than those from urban areas, while 40 percent come from just six states.

"At the moment, military recruiting tends to be most successful in the South, Southwest, and Big Sky Country, and most difficult in the Northeast," he said. "That's paradoxical, though, since the Northeast is among the regions with the highest percentage of young Americans who have the qualifications we require to serve. These geographic gaps present an opportunity for us to draw talent from places where we haven’t been doing so."

Carter said the Defense Department's new advertising campaign would focus on attracting a more diverse recruiting pool. The effort will support Carter's ongoing "Force of the Future" reforms.

"We would be missing an opportunity if we kept fishing only in the same geographic ponds we always have," he said. "Instead, we need to seize that opportunity by fishing in more ponds, new ponds, and ponds we haven’t been to in a long time. We have to draw talent from our country’s entire pool of population for our all-volunteer force. We're going to reach out and talk to the American people wherever they are -- which as you know isn't just on TV anymore, but increasingly in many different places online."

Carter also said DOD would develop data-driven ways to accurately measure and assess effective ROTC units and ensure officer promotion and selection boards "more appropriately value those who serve as ROTC instructors."

"And we're going to look at much more than just how many officers commission each year because quality, and training, and innovative ideas, and things like reaching back into the local community and strengthening connections with the school are important, too," he said.