December 15, 2006 - 11:49AM
The time it takes to apply to join the army will soon be slashed by 80 per cent, under a $1 billion federal government plan to recruit more people.
The Australian Defence Force (ADF) needs to recruit an extra
1,800 people every year and to reduce the numbers leaving by at least 500 to meet its targets.
The federal government will today announce a 10-year program to tackle the recruitment and retention problem.
Mr Howard said part of the problem was it currently took too long for new recruits to be accepted into the ADF.
"Amazingly the average processing time for somebody from the moment they apply to when the final decision is made and they are in is 30 weeks and we're going to reduce that to six,'' the prime minister told ABC radio today.
Mr Howard said the government was also going to revise some of the ADF's entry standards.
"Just because somebody has had asthma, that is not necessarily a reason to keep them out of the army,'' he said.
A military gap year scheme is another part of the plan, in which
1,000 young people each year will have an opportunity to join the defence force.
In order to retain those already in the service, the government is planning to reward skilled soldiers with paid bonuses and allowances.
Mr Howard said too many servicemen and women were being lured away from the army into the private sector.
"The huge problem is that unemployment is now so low and the economy is now so strong that it's increasingly hard to attract men and women to join the ADF and even harder to keep them in,'' he said.
Mr Howard said family commitments were also forcing personnel to move on.
"The fact that wives and husbands want jobs and careers as well, unless both the wife and the husband are members of the military - and there's an increasing incidence of that, then they find movements around more difficult,'' he said.
Mr Howard said the government was also looking at ways to cut down the need to travel.
"We do tend to move people around a lot, some of that is unavoidable, but perhaps we could over the years ahead reduce that,'' he said.
While welcoming the move, Labor leader Kevin Rudd the said the issue of retention within the armed forces was as big as recruitment.
"I don't believe in opposition for opposition's sake," Mr Rudd told reporters in Adelaide.
"If the Prime Minister comes up with a good idea, I'll tick it.
"But I say this though to the Prime Minister as well, he's got a problem with retention rates... our retention rates in the Australian Defence Forces are currently appalling.
"That is a matter of continuing challenge and crisis within our overall Australian military family."
Mr Rudd said the government's idea of using a post-year 12 gap year for the armed services was positive.
"I'm all for that, I think it's a very productive use of a gap year on the part of young people and I would urge young people to take it up," Mr Rudd said.
http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/ ... 66676.html