Joining The Military Could Get Easier (And More Attractive)

Joining The Military Could Get Easier (And More Attractive)
Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering changes to military enlistment standards and might also increase retention benefits.

The U.S. Department of Defense wants to make joining the military easier (and more attractive). 

"I, Ashton Carter..."

He's only been in office about a month, but Defense Secretary Ash Carter is moving fast to try to fix the military's recruitment and retention problem. Here's how he wants to do it. 

For recruits with certain skills — especially those in the cyberspace and tech realm — the Pentagon might relax restrictions around age and criminal record. 

Age restrictions for recruits currently vary by service branch — with 35 the upper limit for Army enlisted, 34 for the Navy and 28 for the Marines. 

Once in, recruits can expect more robust benefits, including a 401(k)-style retirement account. 

Since troops have to serve at least 20 years to get a pension in today's military — and since many serve less than that — the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments estimates more than 80 percent of service members leave the military with no retirement.

For troops looking to start a family or go back to school, the Pentagon might even allow mid-career breaks — sabbaticals that allow service members to take a break, then come back to where they left their careers. 

Whether all that will be enough is definitely a question. With the Army specifically — fewer officers are sticking around for careers. That's a drop that began with the Iraq War. 

The branch has been accused of mismanaging talent and restricting autonomy — criticism we so far haven't seen addressed in Carter's plans.

And with unemployment in the private sector going down — the military might struggle with recruitment and retention despite Carter's proposals. The secretary kicks off a two-day trip to Pennsylvania and New York Monday.