(CNSNews.com) - In a new effort to bring "talented people into the military," Defense Secretary Ashton Carter on Tuesday announced a new "DoD Speaker's Bureau," comprised of senior leaders and experts from across the military.
He also said the U.S. military will "review some of the benchmarks kids currently have to meet in order to join the military."
The aim of the new Speaker's Bureau is to "educate key audiences," such as teachers, principals, parents, coaches, career counselors, civic groups, cultural groups, youth groups, companies and others "on the value and benefits of military public service in support of our mission of national defense," Carter said.
"And I'm the first speaker to sign up, and I'm kicking that off right here, today," he told a gathering at New York City College.
"Our services are also going to be experimenting with having their recruiters be more mobile, leveraging technologies so they can recruit across a wider geographic areas. And they'll also review some of the benchmarks kids currently have to meet in order to join the military."
Carter said recruiters in the Northeastern United States have told him about some of the challenges they are facing witih "spectacular potential recruits who nevertheless also reflect the times in relation to such benchmarks as their current physical fitness, tattoos they got when they were younger, single parenthood and the like.
"Now, some of these things we'll never be able to compromise on," Carter said. "We'll always have to maintain high standards. At the same time, these benchmarks must be kept relevant for both today's force and tomorrow's, meaning we have to ensure that they're not unnecessarily restrictive. So we're going to review and update these standards as appropriate."
Carter said the military also plans to advertise for recruits by stressing "the value of military life and public service."
"We won't be selling the newest phones or trying to get you signed up for the newest credit card. Ultimately what we're selling is service and mission, a chance to be part, as I said, of something bigger than yourself that will not only do something good for you, but that you serve others. And then after you've served, go on to do something great with the rest of your life like so many of our veterans do."
Carter also wants to improve and expand the ROTC experience by having the corps offer more graduate school scholarships. "We'll also offer more two and three year ROTC scholarships, which will make it easier for someone who maybe didn't know about ROTC at first, but will be able to participate nevertheless and serve if they learn about it maybe from a roommate or a teammate or a classmate once they get to campus."
Carter said in the absence of a draft, "Many Americans have become less familiar" with the military.
He also noted that geographically, the military's recruiting pool is shrinking: "More and more of our people coming from fewer and fewer states. Today, young Americans from rural areas are two times more likely to join the military than young Americans from urban areas. And 40 percent of those who join the military come from just six states including New York. Most of our officers come from northern states while the vast majority of our enlisted force comes from southern states.
"So these geographic gaps represent an opportunity -- a great opportunity for us to draw talent from places where we haven't been."
Carter said the military is increasingly a "family business," where people with a parent who served are following in their footsteps. Carter has been trying to make the military more friendly to families, by expanding maternity and paternity leave and childcare hours on base, to name a few of his reforms.
He also has opened the military to homosexual and transgender Americans who can meet the standards, and he has opened all combat positions to women who qualify.
"Now, I want to be clear that for all we've done over the last year, including the plans I've laid out today, building the Force of the Future isn't going to happen overnight," Carter said. "It's going to be a generational effort, and this is just the beginning, because our goal is to address challenges and seize opportunities that have arisen over years and decades, and we have to sustain and build on this over the years and decades ahead as well."