Senators' Latest Idea to Fix Military Recruiting Slump? Sharing Enlistment Data with High Schools

U.S. Air Force recruiter talks to high school students
U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Jacob Bailey, 305th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron section chief, talks to high school students during Air Mobility Command’s Alaska Outreach event in Anchorage, Alaska, May 14, 2024. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Monica Roybal)

Public high schools would be able to access military enlistment data under a data-sharing program being proposed by a bipartisan group of senators.

Under the recently introduced Military and Educational Data Integration Act, the Defense Department would have to set up a program to allow state and local school boards to access information on the outcomes of students who enlist in the military, including the highest level of education they obtained, their scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test and their area of expertise or military occupational speciality.

The idea is intended to better track data that could be used to help sell military service as a career opportunity amid the military's ongoing struggle to convince young people to sign up.

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"The military offers a wide array of career options from combat medics, to chefs, to engineers and much more," Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said in a statement shared with ahead of its public release. "Accurate, current and readily available information on career opportunities and outcomes will better enable state education systems to inform students of military career options post high school. This legislation will open doors for students to pursue their interests through well-paid, meaningful careers in the military."

The bill, sponsored by Moran and Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., was introduced last week but has not yet been publicized.

The proposal comes as the military is in the midst of a recruitment slump. Last year, only the Marine Corps and Space Force, the two smallest service branches, reached their recruiting goals.

Military officials have blamed a variety of factors for their difficulties recruiting young Americans, including a strong civilian jobs market and a low percentage of young adults even eligible to serve in the military.

Hoping to turn the tide, lawmakers have offered a range of proposals to address reasons young people may not be joining, including improving quality of life in the military and increasing military recruiters' access to high schools.

Earlier this year, Moran and 13 other senators in both parties pushed the Pentagon to work with the departments of Education and Labor to better share military service data with states.

"An educator's ability to accurately communicate the benefits of all available career paths, including military enlistment, is essential when preparing students for college and other future careers," they wrote in the letter.

States themselves have asked for the data, too. In a letter to the Pentagon last year,

31 state and U.S. territory chief education officers argued that "the lack of standardized and timely data on military enlistment and persistence makes it almost impossible for states to consider military service as a successful post-high school outcome and to confirm if students were successfully prepared to serve."

The recently introduced Senate bill would mandate that information sharing within 18 months of the bill passing.

The Pentagon would have to work with the Department of Education, state and local education agencies and "other experts in student data and privacy" to set up the data-sharing process, according to the bill text.

The bill also seeks to address any privacy concerns by saying that the data should be anonymous and collected in a "manner that protects individual privacy and data security in accordance with applicable federal, state and local privacy laws."

"Joining the military is one of the most honorable and selfless decisions anyone can make, and it opens the door to a wide variety of fields and career paths," Rosen said in a statement. "I'm proud to introduce this bipartisan bill to better inform students about their military career options."

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