The Pentagon wants the U.S. military to be a “world-class employer,” according to a new report, and the updated 2017 defense budget takes steps to make this a reality.
President Barack Obama submitted the proposed $582.7 billion defense budget for approval by Congress on Feb. 9. Among the key changes are new efforts to retain talent by making U.S. military service more attractive as a long-term job.
“This budget keeps faith with the men and women in uniform and their families, because the volunteer force is central to a strong future military,” the budget states.
“The Department is evaluating a series of comprehensive reform initiatives to improve recruiting and retention, focus on talent management, and increase permeability between the public and private sectors,” it says.
Some of the changes will make life easier for parents serving in the military. Mothers will get 12 weeks’ paid maternity leave (up from 6 weeks), close to 3,600 “mothers’ rooms” will be built or modified, and child care centers will have longer hours.
It will also look to change one of the defining elements of a “military family,” which often sees families constantly on the move as the parents are assigned to new bases.
The budget looks to change “existing authorities,” to allow service members to stay at a station of their choice, “in certain instances where it is in the best interests of the family.”
Other changes aim to bring in new ideas and new talent, while also helping with recruitment and retention.
There will be new programs around entrepreneurship, college internships, and digital services. It will also establish an Office of People Analytics, implement a survey on why service members move on to other careers, and fund a study to “better understand the factors affecting poor recruit outcomes.”
According to a Pentagon press release, “Our priorities are attracting a new generation of talent, promoting diversity, and rewarding merit.” The Pentagon aims to create a bridge between the Department of Defense, the private sector, reserve forces, and other agencies.
The budget report says there is “a broad array of topics under consideration that range from the complex reform to the simple.” It notes that “all of them are designed to increasingly reward top performers, improve quality of life for DoD employees and their families, and optimally manage talent within the Department’s ranks.”
According to an outline, the new budget emphasizes “lethality” over size.
The budget notes that all the costs are being taken from current resources of the Department of Defense, and “additional unidentified savings may be garnered as the Department becomes more efficient as a result of better talent management.”
Close to half of the defense budget goes to personnel costs, which include military pay, health care, civilian pay, and family support, according to the budget.
The budget is up $3 billion from last year, bringing it a little closer to where it was before sequestration. Under President Obama’s Budget Control Act of 2011, the military budget in 2013 fell to $578 billion from $645 billion in 2012.
The U.S. military could see some real changes under the new budget. During a Feb. 2 speech, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said threats from Russia and China are among the key focuses of the budget, and he said that under it, “we will be prepared for a high-end enemy.”