Army Secretary talks recruitment, retainment challenges & goals


Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark Esper joined Francis Rose for a two-part interview , where he discussed modernization and recruitment priorities, and his major takeaways from AUSA 2018.

At the Association of the U.S. Army exposition in Washington D.C., defense contractors had all their wares on full display. The Army welcomed the competition for a piece of the pie, refraining that they are “open for business.” Secretary of the U.S. Army Mark Esper joined Francis Rose shortly after walking the floor of AUSA, and discussed his meetings with the businesses there.


“They like the fact that we’re emphasizing speed, I meet with CEOs every week when I’m back in D.C.  And on multiple times when I engage them, they tell me, ‘speed, speed, speed,’” Esper said. “We need to move much more quickly. I am not looking for perfect, I’m looking for better, and they are responding to that… We have laid out six clear modernization priorities… They know that those aren’t going to change as long as I’m around. So, they like the clarity, the consistency and now they know where to invest their dollars.”


While the Army might be looking to purchase the latest and greatest hardware, it wouldn’t mean anything unless they had the people to use them. The Army is going through a recruitment shortage right now, and Esper says that the Army has changed their priorities for bringing in new troops.


“What’s most important to me is quality not quantity, so while I would like to meet our numbers because we have gaps to fill, quality comes number one and we’re going to stick to that. In fact, this year we raised standards, and I intend to continue along that path,”  Esper told Government Matters.


The Army is also pursuing six modernization priorities, from developing new aircraft and artillery to improving soldier lethality. Esper says that building a new fighting vehicle is one of the most important priorities the Army has.


“The Bradley has reached the end of its upgrade life for all intents and purposes. I need a vehicle that is not perfect, but more capable than the Bradley and that can grow, that we can invest in the system in future years,” Esper said. “That means there’s sufficient space on the vehicle, sufficient power. Not just transmission power, but power to generate anything from active protective system to maybe directed energy. That’s what we are looking for in regard to that vehicle.”