The Army is seeking to bring back retired soldiers to fill critical manpower shortages, according to a servicewide directive published this week.

The All Army Activities document describes how Army retirees can find and apply for open positions and aims to maintain a sufficient number of personnel to fill all of the Army’s authorized positions.


The message comes as the service publicly has acknowledged its struggles to balance a shrinking workforce with the demands of sprawling global mission sets as recruitment woes persist for a third year in a row.

“A review of commands’ requests for [the] fill of authorized personnel vacancies, in conjunction with current Army manning guidance, prompted review of how the Army can fill key and critical position vacancies,” the document states, outlining the situation. “The retiree recall program can be an effective tool to fill personnel shortages of authorized regular Army vacancies that are considered key and essential.”

It was unclear whether the Army already had identified manning shortages to be filled or was issuing the message in anticipation of future need. The Army didn’t respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comments by deadline.

Any Army, Reserve, or National Guard soldier who qualifies as retired or soon to be retired—meaning with at least 20 years of service—and anyone receiving retired pay is eligible to apply, the Army’s message states. Neither age nor disability alone would exclude a soldier from joining, depending on the disability, and returning service members would still have to meet the Army’s health requirements.

“There is no age limitation, although personnel older than 70 are not normally recalled,” the message states.

Those who apply for the program essentially allow the Army to send them orders to return to active duty if a critical role opens that no one else can fill. However, the message doesn’t authorize any special pay or incentives.

Publication of the Army document initially sparked confusion and even irony among military professionals online regarding the program’s voluntary nature and whether it indicates deeper manning issues.

“The Army does have significant manpower shortages, but they are concentrated at the lower enlistment grades due to the recruiting crisis,” retired Lt. Col. Thomas Spoehr, an expert on defense policy and strategy and senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “So I am not sure this particular message does indicate a problem, since retirees are old.”

However, the Army recently acknowledged a persistent problem with roles that go unfilled for too long and proposed a reorganization that would cut down on the number of open positions by the thousands.

After a yearlong review of the Army’s force structure, published in late February, the service concluded that the number and specialization of positions comprising the force did not match up with the changing security environment.

The Army is “over-structured, meaning there are not enough soldiers to fill out existing units and organizations,” the review states. It emphasizes that the cuts are coming to “authorizations (spaces)” not “individual soldiers (faces).”

The Army’s current force structure assumes an active-duty end strength—or total number of troops—of 494,000, according to the document. Congress capped end strength at 445,000 in the fiscal year 2024 defense policy bill, a historically low number as the Army struggled to recruit enough soldiers to meet end-strength goals.

Officials justified cutting 24,000 roles that had been left empty as the Army deals with its worst-ever recruiting crisis as helping ensure the service only plans to assign and deploy the people it has available, reducing strain and allowing for more realistic planning.

Originally published by The Daily Caller News Foundation

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