Soldiers not yet quitting over sequester

The sequester is causing the Army plenty of problems but retention is not one of them, according to the chief of staff, Gen. Ray Odierno. Not yet, at least.

The military has given Congress and the president a mile-long list of reasons to cancel the mandatory across-the-board sequester cuts underway, from the inability to field intercontinental ballistic missiles to reduced shopping hours at grocery stores on military bases.

The latest warning from the top brass: the sequester could, might, just maybe, one day, possibly soon affect recruitment and retention.

But not yet. 

"We are not seeing any degradation in retention or our ability to recruit," Gen. Ray Odierno said at a Tuesday breakfast with reporters. "In fact last year, for the first time, not everybody who wanted to reenlist was able to. For us, that's the first time that's happened in a very long time. So our attrition rates are at historic lows."

To restate -- the rate of soldiers leaving the Army is actually at a near all-time low.

Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey said last month he worried troops may start to quit the Armed Forces because the sequester is cutting training budgets, which means less flying, sailing, and all the fun stuff that troops signed up to do.

"Today's readiness challenges could indeed, lead to tomorrow's retention challenges," Dempsey said. The chairman argued troops will not stomach being told to sit and wait out the sequester after so many years of high-tempo activity. "That will, I predict, impact retention." 

Odierno joined in Dempsey's prediction that young adults may look elsewhere than the military for work, on Tuesday, saying, "As the economy improves, people might look to do some other things. But if we don't have the money to train, and we don't have the money to do the things we think we should be doing, it is going to have an impact."

On Thursday, the Pentagon released its latest recruitment and retention numbers with the Army logging 101 percent of its goal for the fiscal year through March, signing up 33,857 new personnel. The other services all met their attrition goals, DOD said. Only the Army Reserve is struggling to meet their recruiting goal, reporting 12,976 accessions, with a goal of 14,477 through March.

"Because soldiers, they want to be -- the reason they want to stay in the army, they think it's a good organization, they think its one that's well trained, its one that's well respected," Odierno said. "If they start to feel that we're now not being funded or have the capability to do that, I think the natural instinct will be, maybe I'm going to do something else."

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