Senate Committee Meets on Military Recruiting and Retention

The Senate Committee on Armed Services hears testimony from Stephanie P. Miller, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, and military leaders in manpower and personnel on recruiting and retention efforts across the Defense Department, September 21, 2022.


On the current state of military personnel recruiting and retention in the Department of Defense. Let me start by welcoming Senator Tillis, ranking member of the subcommittee. Senator Tillis in particular has shown great interest in ensuring our military has what it needs to recruit and retain the best people that our country has to offer. I want to thank him for his leadership on this issue. I look forward to working with Senator Tills to help find ways to facilitate both recruiting and retention and military services. Our military faces headwinds in its effort to attract and retain quality recruits. By the end of 2022, the active US military will be at its smallest size since the creation of the all-volunteer force for which we mark the 50th anniversary next year. All foreign military services here today have signaled significant concerns about the strength of their recruiting operations and their prospects for success. In 2023, The army in particular has said has had a very difficult year with nine days remaining in the fiscal year. The Army reports that has met only 70% of its fiscal year, 2022 active duty recruiting goal. I’m not, It is on track to miss its recruiting target by up to 30,000 soldiers. The troubling drop in military accession comes at a time of global uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 rising inflation, unprovoked Russian military aggression. As the security environment becomes more unstable, it’s critical that our military remains fully equipped to meet the challenges of our day. At the same time, we know that America’s youth have a historically low level of interest in military service and enjoy a highly favorable job market, which makes it even more difficult to recruit and retain highly skilled personnel. We also know that some critical skills capabilities are especially at risk, including bullets and cyber operations, intelligence and electronic warfare. As our military looks to fill positions in these fields, I challenge the services to think outside the box, creating new career paths, offering innovative pay and incentive structures and realigning some capabilities from military to civilian workforce is should all be on the table. I know that America’s military is by far the best fighting force in the world and our service members are overwhelmingly proud to serve. Paradoxically, the recent drop in military recruiting has coincided with historically high retention rates Across all our services. The statistics you have provided show clear evidence that those members who have joined the military are more likely than ever before to remain in uniform by choice. But decades of hard fought conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan have created a perception that service in the military leaves people broken damaged or disadvantaged in society. In reality, I know for my many interactions with our service members and veterans, the majority report positive experiences in the military positive post military outcomes and are proud of their service. They end up with more education, higher household income and greater levels of civic engagement than their peers who did not enter military service and veteran unemployment is lower than the general unemployment rate across the country. Our military has wonderful things to offer from high tech skills building, leadership training, camaraderie and friendship generous civilian education benefits and robust family support programs. I want to know what we can do to help the military recruit the best and brightest people into service. I’m looking forward to hearing from today’s witnesses on this topic. We have one panel today featuring human resource experts from D. O. D. And each military service witnesses in our panel include Dr Stephanie Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Military Personnel Policy. Lieutenant General Douglas F Stitt, Deputy Chief of Staff G. One, the United States Army Vice Admiral Rick J. Cheeseman, junior Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for personal manpower training, United States Navy, Lieutenant General Caroline Miller, Deputy Chief of Staff for manpower, personnel and services, the United States Air Force, Michael R Strobel, acting deputy commandant for Manpower and Reserve Affairs. Again, I welcome the witnesses today, thank you for appearing and thank you for your testimony. Thank you most of all for your service. We are deeply grateful Senator Tills, thank you madam. Chair and uh I want to thank you for the work that we’ve done on this committee for several years now and uh look forward to doing more work in the remainder of this Congress and in the future. Um Our subcommittee hearing last year, I said I was worried that the current challenges in military recruiting represented a long term threat to the all-volunteer force over the summer. I think things have gotten worse And there’s no sunlight on the horizon. It’s becoming clear the all-volunteer force that has served our country well for the last 50 years is at an inflection point. While only the army is unfortunate is in the unfortunate position of missing its recruiting goal this year. The truth of the matter is unless we do things differently um for the and do things for the better. I believe every service except for the space forces at risk of missing the recruiting mission over the next year and we need to act. I hope to use this hearing to separate the truth from fiction of what is actually causing Americans to take a pass on serving their country. There’s no shortage of misleading information related to military service, Members of Congress, the media and even the military and veteran community all contribute to these disproportionately negative and often inaccurate portrayals of military service. The result of these prevailing narratives is a misinformed American public who do not know much about the military, but what they do know is mostly incorrect. According to the D. O. D. Surveys of of potential recruits. The top two reasons young people give for not joining the military are the possibility of physical injury or death and the possibility of PTSD or other emotional psychological issues. The truth of course is that the vast majority of those who join the military come out much better for their service. A recent peer reviewed paper by the Quarterly Journal of Economics found that enlisting in the army increases cumulative earnings, post-secondary education, attendance, homeownership and marriage. While there are some jobs in the military that can be dangerous, most people serve without being exposed to any more danger than the average American does on a work site. And while I’m glad we’re turning a corner and the way we talk and care about those who have PTSD and TBI, I I’m certain that the risk posed by these conditions shouldn’t dissuade otherwise interested. Americans from enlisting one unfortunate trend that is undoubtedly harming recruiting is the politicization of the military for partisan gain. The military isn’t full of woke warriors or extremist. Americans of all political persuasions should feel supported and serving their country. And unfortunately some indications suggest that’s just not the case. I look forward to hearing from the witnesses today to figure out how we can work together to better prepare you to make your recruiting goals and better inform future recruits about the wonderful opportunity that they could have in military service. Thank you, Madam Chair. Thank you. Mr. ranking member. Um The V. F. W. Has asked us to enter their position paper into the record and without objection. It’s so admitted admitted. Um I’d now like to hear from MS miller for your opening statement. Thank you. Chairwoman Gillibrand, ranking member Tillis and distinguished members of the subcommittee. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the current and future state of military recruiting and retention. As fiscal year 2022 comes to a close. The department anticipates we will collectively miss our annual recruiting mission despite assessing more than 100 and 70,000 remarkable young men and women are short four constitutes an unprecedented mission gap and is reason for concern for the greater state of national service recruiting. Shortfalls are not merely a D. O. D. Issue but a national one. As we will discuss today, there is no one silver bullet or specific action that the department or the services can take to quickly resolve the current challenges. But we must focus on galvanizing our citizens, both youth and influencers on the merit and value of contributing to the country’s wellbeing through military service. Changing this dynamic requires involvement from members of congress, veterans, teachers, coaches, as well as parents, grandparents and other influencers because the military is more important than ever. To ensure power projection that allows for individual freedoms, promotes free trade, protects human rights and the rule of law across the globe. However, the portrayal of the mission and what service looks like for military members and their families is often skewed in the media and in the minds of the current generation of youth. The next generation of Americans to serve should know that there has never been a better time for them to choose military service. Our data indicates that generation Z. Is primarily driven by purpose relationships and a clear path to success. We can offer all three purpose. They can apply passion for change in military service and make a global impact protecting freedom from medical training and humanitarian aid to cyber technology to leadership Under pressure, service members find personal fulfillment serving in every part of the world and responding with skills to truly make a difference everyday relationships. Military service provides a connection between members and a spree decor that simply does not have a parallel in civilian sectors. A clear path to success. Military service affords a wide range of career opportunities where we will individually challenge them to reach peak potential while also providing a clear path to succeed and along the way they will see and do things that most Americans never will. Additionally, we provide our service members competitive pay packages with unprecedented opportunities for continued training and education. In short, we offer the things that generations he looks for when choosing a career. But in many respects, they just don’t know it. While a picture of the current recruiting environment is difficult, The services and the department are actively committed to overcoming recruiting challenges through strong collaboration and innovative thought. Congress can help our efforts by improving high school access where high schools are incentivized to grant predictable and regular access to recruiters and support to the career exploration program, updating authorities for targeted marketing and advertising to ensure our messages are uniquely tailored to diverse audiences with multifaceted interests and on time budget approval with consideration of two year funding for marketing and advertising for earlier media buys, which would not only maximize critical taxpayer resources to reduce price purchasing, but also give recruitment advertising a more competitive advantage in an already crowded market. In conclusion, I want to thank the members of this subcommittee for taking the time to focus on this critical issue and the continued advocacy by the members and their staffs on behalf of the men and women of the Department of Defense. We appreciate your continued support for funding the programs that keep the force and their families safe. Strong and healthy. I look forward to your questions. Thank you MS Miller. Um, we’re now prepared to hear from Lieutenant General State Chairwoman Gillibrand, ranking member Tillis, distinguished members of this committee. Thank you for the opportunity and the honor to testify on behalf of the soldiers of the United States Army. Today, America’s military currently faces the most challenging recruiting environment since the inception of the all-volunteer force in 1973. These unprecedented recruiting challenges are driven in part by a low national unemployment rate, a strong job market, intense competition with the private sector and a declining number of young Americans interested in And qualified for uniform service. Currently only 23% of 17-24 year old Americans are fully qualified to serve the top disqualifiers for service. Our obesity addiction, conduct test scores, medical and behavioral health conditions. The army is taking strong actions to ensure we have a ready force comprised of cohesive teams of fit, trained and disciplined soldiers. All initiatives are designed to increase our sessions of qualified candidates under three guiding principles. We will not sacrifice quality for quantity. We will not lower our standards. We will invest in America’s youth so that those who want to serve can meet our standards. The United States Army exists for one purpose to protect the nation by fighting and winning our nation’s wars. As a member of the joint Force. Our readiness to fight and win depends on equality, all volunteer force. We have high standards for our soldiers and that will not change. But we are committed to removing barriers to service. We want to give individuals who want to be the opportunity to be all they can be while serving in the United States Army. Chairwoman Gillibrand, ranking member, Tillis, Distinguished members of this committee. Thank you for your support to the soldiers of the United States Army. We are committed to working collaboratively with this committee and with Congress as a whole to help us maintain the army as the world’s premier fighting force. I look forward to your questions here too prepared to hear from. Vice Admiral Cheeseman. Thank you. Chairman, Chairwoman Gillibrand, ranking member, Tillis and distinguished members of the personnel subcommittee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today to discuss our Navy’s most important strategic asset, our people recruiting and retaining sailors, the secretary of the Navy’s top priority and he has personally involved in our Navy working group to address these challenges. Additionally, the recently released Chief of Naval Operations navigation plan for 2022 reaffirms his fundamental belief that people are the most important element. We cannot accomplish a single mission without them. Strategic competition demands that we remain ahead of our adversaries who persistently challenge our traditional warfighting dominance through new weapons systems and innovative tactics. In response, our Navy forms an essential element of the joint force By building and sustaining or fighting capability. Our perennial advantage remains our people and our sailors will relentlessly pursue operational excellence. However, without a steady supply of new sailors, this advantage could quickly wane. It is for this reason that we pulled every possible lever to achieve mission success in recruiting. As fiscal year 22 draws to a close, I can report that Navy has met 100% of the active component and listed recruiting mission, which is the vast majority of our new total accessions. However, while we continue to fight for every person, I expect that we will fall short of a reserve enlisted mission as well as our active and Reserve officer mission. Our Navy team continues to focus on the factors that influence our recruiting efforts, assess the current situation, to meet our recruiting goals and implement initiatives to keep our force near and strength controls. We continue to leverage our large scale digital recruiting presence through our forged by the sea marketing and advertising campaign, which allows us to reach each and every zip code to access previously undiscovered talent. In 2017, of our marketing and advertising was digital. Today we’re at nearly 100% digital, resulting in a 30% increase in national leads while taking the message to where our future sailors are operating online. While we remain committed to aggressively fighting for the best our nation has to offer, we are beginning to witness an increased competition for needed talent. In particular, we are experiencing challenges due to labor market conditions, strong commercial competitors and low propensity to serve among our 18 to 24 year old target demographic. 2022 has seen low unemployment with continued wage growth, resulting in strong labor demand in all markets nationwide. Navy welcome support to promote military service with as much enthusiasm and credibility as colleges, trade schools or nontraditional gig economy careers legislation to support an increase to the enlistment bonus, statutory maximums, especially skill pay and bonuses will help as well. Building upon the gains of the last few years. Navy remains committed to retaining the right talent and experience in the right pay grades and ratings. This is a mutually supporting effort with recruiting and we have used every level within our authority to maximize those making the decision to stay. Navy, Navy retention remains above our year to date retention forecast in all zones which are tracking to meet or exceed our fiscal year 22 retention entertainment benchmarks. That said, we remain cautiously optimistic for fiscal year 23. While we closely monitor all of our retention metrics, our Navy is committed to attracting, developing and inspiring America’s finest so we can best protect and defend our American way of life. We cannot fully accomplish this without your continued support. As Cno frequently states everyday matters in this critical decade. Everything that you can do to prevent the negative impacts of a continuing resolution will help ensure our warfighting capability and the fulfillment of our commitment to our sailors and their families. I remain inspired by our sailors and they exceed every expectation will watch today and every day around the globe. You and every American can be proud of the sailors and families of your United States Navy as they serve our great nation. Thank you. And I look forward to your questions. Thank you. Vice Admiral um, Lieutenant General Miller. We’re prepared to hear your opening statement, Chairwoman Gillibrand, Ranking member tell us and distinguished members of the committee. Thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to discuss the recruiting efforts of the Department of the Air Force. I am honored to be able to highlight the things we are doing to showcase the Air Force as the employer of choice. As we near the end of the fiscal year. I can report to you that the active duty Air Force has met its recruiting goal for fiscal year 22 by a narrow margin, but with a minimal bank of ready recruits. For fiscal year 23 the Air Reserve components, however, will fall short of their recruiting goals. The Department of the Air Force is actively aware that there is an intense competition for talent driven by an ongoing national labor shortage. We anticipate the recruiting environment to be even more challenging in 2023 beyond one. Major concern is that the current youth market is increasingly disconnected and unfamiliar with the military, resulting in fewer youths interested in or planning to join today. Only one of 11 eligible individuals in the 17-24 year old range has a propensity to serve furthermore overall public perception of the military is often inaccurate with negative publicity, overshadowing the tangible benefits and positive global impact airmen make every day to combat these challenges and increase our recruiting pool. The Air Force is engaging with several angles. We are improving our recruiter training program. We are increasing monetary incentives for recruits. We are intensifying our recruiting efforts to target diverse populations and improving our marketing campaigns to include initiatives to use general officers to expand the arms reach of our recruiters hampered by restrictions from worldwide covid 19 pandemic. Our recruiters have been unable to access schools or conduct other public engagements. This lack of access atrophy the atrophied the required skills and greatly diminish the routine contacts recruiters need to successfully communicate and promote the Air Force brand. Currently 70% of active duty recruiters have never recruited in a non-covid environment to re home their skills. We have implemented an aggressive training plan for recruiters to address training deficits and increased community presence. In fiscal year 22, we increased enlistment incentive bonuses by approximately $22 million. This resulted in over 2200 new recruits contracted between April and September of 2022. Additionally, we implemented a quick ship bonus allowing us to successfully contract 320 enlistees and immediately send them to basic training, ensuring we filled every available seat. We intend to continue this in fiscal year 23. Furthermore, we are actively examining all session policies to determine if there are any areas in which we can adjust to eliminate unnecessary barriers to serve. Our drive program provides motivated but medically disqualified airmen a chance to serve their country in ways other than in uniform. The program is designed to transform medically disqualified airmen with unique skill sets into viable civil servant applicants, thereby keeping the talent within the Air Force. This summer, the secretary of the Air Force established new goals for officers source of commissioning applicant pools. We have been, we have expanded diversity recruiting efforts with additional recruiters and ongoing improvements to total Force marketing With a specific focus on underrepresented female Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander and American Indian native Alaskan populations. We have increased our recruiter presence to various academic institutions and untapped geographic regions. The department is also focusing focusing efforts on K through 12 youth with our inspire operations and aviation inspiration mentorship programs. These programs are designed to encourage young students in underrepresented groups to pursue, to pursue stem and aviation careers. This challenging recruiting environment is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. Our ability to remain competitive as an employer of choice relies on increasing the reach of our recruiting efforts to expand the recruiting pool. And from the bottom of my heart, I can tell you that we continue to have an unbeatable value proposition where we offer opportunity, community and perp to these willing Americans. Not only do we offer an opportunity to come serve alongside some of the greatest Americans they’ll ever meet in the Air Force and Space Force, but we offer an opportunity to change the trajectory of lives, make better citizens and to leave people with an undeniable sense that they have made a difference that they have made it matter. I appreciate your continued support of the Department of Defense. Thank you And I look forward to your questions. Thank you. Lieutenant General um Dr Strobel. We are prepared to hear your opening statement chair Gellibrand ranking member tell us and distinguished members of this subcommittee. It is my distinct privilege to appear before you today to provide an overview of your Marine corps’s recruiting efforts. As we approach the 50th anniversary of the all-volunteer force, we must remind ourselves that its success is not a given. It is predicated on our nation’s youth and their patriotic inclination to serve our nation. The reality is the Marine Corps is facing significant recruiting challenges, residuals from covid a very tight labor market, historic lows in qualification rates propensity and the public perception of the military and a fragmented advertising environment have made it increasingly difficult to recruit while we had to reduce our original fiscal year session mission. An exceptional retention year enabled the Marine Corps to adjust its fy 22 a session goal only slightly which are hardworking and dedicated recruiters are on track to meet while sustaining our high quality standards. We are fortunate for the amazing youth who want to step up and experience the honor, courage and commitment of being a marine and part of our core. There are three things we must do to address these challenges. One, modernized recruiting. Today’s youth are on social media all the time. We are there to, but we do not currently have the authority to implement modern tools for outreach to those who may be interested in serving. We are in some respects, still in the telephone book era. We are taking advantage of new high tech tools in many areas of the military. We need them for recruiting too. Number two maintain and improve access to high schools. We thank Congress for its continued support for recruiter access to high schools and student directory lists. This access remains critical to recruiting quality applicants. Without it, both marine recruiters and interested students lose the most effective and productive means of communicating together about the opportunities for military service. Number three, we must create a national dialogue on service. Those who serve in uniform departed our ranks with increased professionalism, leadership education, skills and a well-earned sense of pride that set them up for life professionally and personally. Marine veterans are leaders in industry, education and government throughout our nation, including the halls of Congress, there are incredible benefits, both tangible and intangible that come with service in the military. We must work together to change the narrative to promote the value so that our nation’s youth do not miss out on the benefits of service and our country does not miss out on them. We appreciate your support for these goals and for predictable funding. We need to accomplish them. Victory is a Marine corps with improved readiness and lethality in combat and a force that fulfills our congressional mandate to be the most ready when our nation is least ready today and on the battlefields of the future. Our continued success in recruiting the best and brightest of our nation’s youth is foundational to that victory semper Fidelis. Thank you all for your testimony. Um MS Miller in 2020 and 2020 D. O. D. Issued his 13th quadrennial Condrey quadrennial review of military compensation. Among the findings and recommendations, the report noted that for certain military career fields such as cyber military pay falls behind pay in the civilian labor market. The report recommended a study to examine a more expansive view of military play, including special incentive pays for target to target at recruitment and retention. Has D. O. D. Conducted the study and if so, what impacts are special and incentive pay is having on recruitment, retention and especially high demand occupations like cyber Ma’am. Thank you for that question. Um We continue to uh conduct that review and and formulate that into the final report for the committee. We agree that in looking at our force structure and looking at recruitment and retention. That critical skills such as cyber and information warfare technology are some of the not only hardest to recruit but the hardest to retain. And so we agree with you ma’am that it will be important to have flexible and responsive incentive packages not only with regular military compensation but with additional bonus authority um to be able to respond to the demand signal that we see in and not only recruiting them training them but then retaining them. Um Part of that is also looking at um the community itself and looking as to whether that traditional career path that we have within the Department of Defense is the right career path for that skill set and that talent, whether we need more permeability between Active reserve and whether we need more permeability into the civilian sector so that we can kind of keep and leverage those skill sets. Um So we are committed to working with the committee and with human to make sure that we have the right authorities that we need to be able to respond to that demand. And when do you expect to give those recommendations?

Especially with regard to permeability?

Uh Ma’am. That is something we continue to work on particularly with respect to duty status reform. Um And so we are we’re working on that this year and commit to providing the committee and update um within the next quarter. Okay, uh General Miller um as the Air Force modernizes and prepares for the future of our nation’s defense, we know that attracting retraining, high quality airmen is critical to our capabilities such as cyber intelligence and electronic warfare. We also know that the private sector competes aggressively for the people with these capabilities. What’s the Air Force doing to ensure it’s attracting and keeping personnel and critical skills such as cyber and what additional authorities does the Air Force need in this area that currently does not have Madam Chairman. Thank you for the question. We actually have a cyber task force right now, that is looking specifically at that. And how do we um similar to what MS Miller talked about is how do we attract those individuals?

There is absolutely a fight for talent right now, especially in those areas. And so similarly to what MS Miller talked about, but we are also looking at how do we manage the forced differently. So one of the taskers that the chief has has given me was to say, okay, we have got um we have to look at things differently. How can we attract the individuals?

And then we’re also looking at where can we attract them?

We have a lot of partnerships with industry right now and that we’re doing often we send airmen out to them, but what we’re trying to do is get some of the those high industry and the cyber um career fields and other areas into us so they can they can work on different projects, they can train our individuals. Um and then it provides additional talking points out in the industry of what we are capable of doing. Um but we are, I think that probably all of us are struggling to figure out how to get that talent. Um Some of the some of our policies prevent us from right now prevent us from paying them what we should, we did increase some of their um some of the cyber um specialties bonus money and so we’re looking at everything available right now, ma’am and then she said um service in the navy lags the other services and readiness on the cyber mission force and places very few officers in cyber specific billets. What’s the Navy’s plan to grow its cyber dedicated personnel and what recruiting and retention challenges do you face?


Thank you very much for the question. Our marketing and advertising campaign, the digital forged by the sea campaign specifically targets cyber fields on social media to get at this recruiting challenge. We also target job search sites to get at the recruiting challenge as well. We partner with various stem affinity groups for community outreach in support of generating additional talents. On the legislation side we do support increases as the targeted bonuses or statutory increases to the targeted bonuses and specialized skill pay. We think that will go a long way in retaining the personnel we need, ma’am, thank you so much. Senator Tillis, I’ll defer to Senator holly on Tuberville. Take last center holly. Thank you very much. Um the ranking member and thank you madam chair and thanks to the witnesses for being here general. Let me talk with you and we start with you If I could, I have spoken repeatedly with the Secretary of the army about replacing aging homes at Fort Leonard Wood in my home state. And there is no doubt in my mind that service members deserve better than they’re getting right now. I was just there a few weeks ago, I toured the homes myself, I spoke to residents, I spoke to spouses, I spoke to Children who lived in the homes. These homes need to be replaced. What concerns me is the army doesn’t seem to have a plan to replace this aging housing stock. So let me just ask you this in your opinion, how does the availability or maybe lack of availability of quality military housing for service members and their families affect recruiting and retention. Senator Hawley, Good afternoon. The army takes the care and quality of life of of all of our service members and their families very seriously. So we are making and committed to investing, uh, in our housing within not just that, but within our daycare centers, childcare offering opportunities expanding beyond that for spousal employment. To put kind of a whole package on the table to ensure that our facilities and our care and commitment towards family members is first class. You say a whole package. When when will we be seeing this package, Senator?

We continue to work on it. And I can take that question for the record please. Well, that’s fine. I mean, but let me just say again for the record, I’ve said this in the full committee. I’ll say it again here that I think we’re past the point of continuing to kick this down the down the road. I mean, this is a this is a problem. now frankly at Fort Leonard Wood. It was a problem a decade ago. But listen I’ve been there I mean I’ve I’ve I’ve seen it myself, I’ve talked to the service members myself, I’ve been in their houses, I’ve been in their kitchens, I looked at their bathrooms where there’s mold growing. I’ve seen that they don’t have places for their kids. I’ve seen this substandard living conditions and it just isn’t acceptable general. You know what I promised the service members that I’d be a royal pain in the in the you know what until something changed. So I’m keeping that commitment and I’m gonna continue it until something changes. And frankly I’ve I’ve heard this now for it’s going on two years. I’ve only been in the Senate three but I’ve heard it continuously that well we’ll get to it we’ll get to it we’ll get to it. Well at Fort Leonard Wood we haven’t gotten to it. And I I bet if we went around the table here I bet that the other members of the subcommittee would have the same situation in their States. So um I’ll give you the question for the record but I just want to put on notice again and you can take this back that I want to see some progress on this and I want to see it soon and what I don’t want to see or any more commitments from the army that they’re gonna spend X. Number of dollars this happened last year we’re gonna commit X. Number of dollars before Leonard Wood. And then as it turns out $0 were spent on housing. I’m still ticked off about that and I don’t want to see it happen again and I want to see progress made. So that’s my piece. I think you understand where I’m coming from um General Miller let me let me come to you. Can you help me with something here?

Anderson Air Force Base?

I understand this is in Guam course leaders there recently received an official email that prohibited them from using pronouns or descriptors like he she youngest oldest male or female. Why is that?

I mean what what what what what’s what’s going on?

Senator holly thank you for that question. Actually. That is we’ve been talking a lot about that because it was a it was an email from my understanding that went out for locally from one of the commanders there and I don’t remember at what level, I don’t know if it was a group commander of the wing commander there. Um I believe that it was a Facebook post that went out based on a question. It is not the air force policy to um not use pronouns. And so I think it was a social media, you know exacerbated by um individuals that said that they were directed for that. Okay good. Well I think that’s that’s progress. So so you’re saying I’m looking at a news article here published august 31 2022 uh saying that has been has has sent this uh this letter around leaders of the base are instructed do not use pronouns, age, race, etcetera. And they go on. The unauthorized examples of unauthorized language are male, female, youngest oldest. But you’re saying that that is not that was not an official communication. That has not been a directive is not an official communication from the half correct. Okay. Okay. And so um your your position to me is today that that is that is not policy and that they have not been so instructed that this is a social media kerfuffle. I mean this is not this is not real, it’s not happening. It’s I don’t know if it’s not happening, but it is not an official policy from the Department of the Air Force. Okay. Um I ask because part of the way it’s been reported is that the rationale um is to help with lethality and also recruiting. And I just was curious as heck how how not using he she can help with lethality and how it’s helping with recruiting. But I take your word for it that this is this is not a policy and that satisfies me. So thank you. Thank you madam. Thank you. Senator Hirono, Thank you, madam. Chair recruiting and retaining female service members is essential for our military readiness and national security. Yet. Women are more likely to leave service than their male peers given frustrations with family planning, gender bias and discrimination, not to mention sexual assault and sexual harassment. And now following the disastrous Dobbs decision that has created fear chaos and confusion all across the country. Service members, reproductive and health care rights have become dependent on their duty station. Last week, the Rand Corporation published a report indicating that 40% of female service members no longer have access to or have severely restricted access to abortion services where they are stationed. This will not only harm individual service members but will likely have staggering impacts on our ability to recruit and retain women. In June I sent a letter to Secretary Austin urging D. O. D. To support and protect female service members seeking reproductive services. I’d like to ask Miss Miller, General Miller. Okay. General Miller Air Force. Okay, well thank you for that. Either one of you, frankly or any of you uh hasn’t. The Supreme Court’s decision made it even more challenging to recruit and retain women. Thank you for that question, ma’am. Um Secretary Austin has made clear that the health and well-being of service members and their families is a top priority. Um And that includes the the access to reproductive care. Um And so we agree that while technically that the rules governing access to covered versus non covered abortion care um was not necessarily affected by the outcome of the Supreme Court decision. We do recognize that the outcome may make it more difficult for service members to um electively choose a non-covered abortion. And it could make it more difficult to travel into. They may incur additional expenses. And so we are committed to taking a look at the full range of our current authorities and policies and make sure that we’re providing information and support where appropriate. I think this is this is a real concern because you have uh service members who are serving in states such as Alabama Tennessee. There’s a hope, you know, number of basically southern states where they would have to travel a long ways in order to get abortion services. So I would like to know what the Department of Defense plans to do to enable the service members to get the care and the services that they need in the reproductive area. So that’s just let me just put it out there for Miss Miller. One of the top reasons service members particular women choose not to join remain or leave the armed forces is the impact military service has on family planning and across the U. S. And around the world. Egg freezing and in vitro fertilization are commonly used for individuals who wish to have Children in the future. But for personal professional reasons of the delay in July I called the D. O. D. To study the impact and cost of offering crier preservation to service members something that I understand the the great Britain does provide these kinds of options. So Miss Miller would covering the cost of cryo preservation under Tricare be something the department could consider to improve, improve retention rates. Ma’am. I think that’s a good question. Unfortunately I am not a subject matter expert per se in that area. Although um I know that our health affairs colleagues continue to look at that possibility and I commit to you that we will take that question for the record and provide a follow up. Thank you very much. One more thing I heard uh think is doctor strobe talk about the importance of having access to high schools. All of you are are really engaging in recruiting at a much younger age. And so for high schools there was a report in the New York times that uh there were 33 cases of instructor misconduct in the junior R. O. T. C. Program. And how are you going to address this kind of misconduct when you talk about wanting access to high schools?

But that’s not gonna work very well if your instructors are engaging in sexual harassment, other kinds of misconduct. So are you aware of the problem?

And this is where dr strokes?

Since you mentioned wanting access. So how will you demonstrate that the recruiters and military personnel can be trustworthy senator. Thank you for that question and I share your concern in this area. Uh we have uh implemented enhanced training of all of our marines from uh even before they enlist all the way up until the general officer level to ensure that they understand the zero tolerance policy for sexual assault and sexual harassment. Um even before the Independent Review Commission recommendations um the Marine Corps moved out in fy 22 by nearly doubling its budget for sexual assault prevention um um training response coordinators, victim advocates and prevention coordinators. Um We are in the process of hiring 120 of these types of skills to distribute around the Marine Corps to get after this problem. Then there’s the Independent Review Commission um We support all 82 of the recommendations of the commission and we are committed to spending $560 million to hire and train 826 prevention response coordinators and behavioral health experts to help us uh eradicate sexual assault and sexual harassment. Is this an issue manager if I made, are the other services also paying attention to this kind of problem behavior and your junior ROTC programs?

Um Air Force. Yeah. Yes we are absolutely in fact, before the I. R. S. Before the I. R. C. Report um we actually had a substantial preventive workforce organization and so with the recommendations from the I. R. C. We are we are implementing them across the, across the service. We also just started a pilot program at seven different installations right now in which we are co locating all of the helping services for victims what we want to do and we we’ve got it on in the area of those installations in which the victims can go there and it’s not, you know, not everybody will know why they’re going there. So it provides them privacy. Um I will also say, you know, on the particular case in which you’re talking about or the the article that was in the New York times on the Junior ROTC, I mean sexual assault is a crime. I mean it is a crime and we take it very seriously. We have we are actually looking to expand um Garden Reserve into the Junior ROTC programs as an initiative to make sure that there’s a little bit more oversight right now. Um the Junior ROTC programs across the United States are vast and there’s only about seven individual, seven different regional um folks that that that actually monitor them, There’s a requirement that they’re supposed to be assessed in person in the in the institution once a year, but right now there’s not enough individuals to do that. So we’re looking at all of those avenues from the Air Force perspective, ma’am, thank you. Um Senator Tuberville and we’ll go through the rest of the services to answer that question when it’s my turn, so we’ll complete it for the record, but go ahead, thank you all very much for being here today. Y’all got a tough job, I recruited for a long time. I know how hard it is. So, uh, you’ve got a challenge, especially when only one of one out of every five American youth is eligible to join the military. Uh, the drugs, obesity, lack of education, criminal activity. They prevent a lot of our young young people from even wanting to get in the military. That’s hard enough. But you know, this administration has made the job so much harder for you. Uh, I feel bad for you. The number one reason young people join the military is they have a family connection. The military is a family business. 80% of our force has a family member presently enlisted After watching this administration’s blunder in Afghanistan tossing 20 years of sacrifice down the drain. While would a veteran encourage their child to sign up. I know you’re running into that problem. So this administration doesn’t inspire our youth about America. It paints our service members as extremists white supremacists But are surprised that only 9%, only nine of young people even want to serve. That’s a small small pool faith in our military has collapsed for decades. Our military was the most trusted organization in America Under President, Biden Trust in the military as cratered, 45%. What we have is a national security emergency. So Secretary miller, I’ve reviewed the list of speaking engagements for senior leaders at the pentagon and can find no trace, zero of anyone speaking publicly about recruiting the leaders of our military. But there were plenty of speeches on climate change, pride month and global water security. What is going on here?

What actions have the doj leaders taken to solve this crisis?

Secretary Miller, thank you Senator for that question. The senior leadership of the department, from Secretary Austin, secretary hicks to the secretaries of the military departments are absolutely focused on the issue of recruiting and critical retention. Um, and we do see our senior leaders engaging on this time just as recently as this past weekend. Um, we had army senior leadership that was on the Today show talking about this issue because we agree with you that it’s important to get our message out to youth and influencers about the opportunities that service affords and to kind of cut through the chaff that you mentioned on some of the um the more provocative rhetoric that is often shaped by well intentioned, perhaps misinformed um external uh providers. And so we agree that through strategic marketing and advertising strategic engagements by our senior leadership inside the department that we do have a role to play to ensure that the right information is getting to the right people at the right time about the opportunities that military service affords. Well. I know you are great recruiters but our leaders, our presidents and our leaders in the military that are seen on tv every day. I know they’re busy, we got we got a dangerous world we’re living in but they have got to spend time on helping us recruit. I mean we need everybody on board. Uh This panels we’ve heard a lot of concerns and critiques but I want to first take a moment to commend commend the United States Marine Corps. The Marines are the only service currently to meet the F-22 recruiting numbers. Well done. The marines are meeting their numbers because they stick to talking about defending our nation. You know, compare any marine courts recruiting add to the army’s woke campaign and you’ll see one of the Marine corps is meeting its numbers. The calling campaign of the army was so widely trashed that they had to turn off comments on YouTube. And I saw I mean it’s it’s not what this country looks for when we’re talking about military and the defending our freedom dr strobe. Are there any legal or policy changes that congress could direct that would allow the services to modernize recruiting efforts and to be more effective with their current budget. Senator. I’m glad you asked that question. Um, I do think there are some things we need to look at as far as um accessing data when a potential applicant for example comes to marines dot com. Um we would like to be able to use modern tools to be able to send targeted advertising to that applicant when they leave our website. So if they click on a picture of a howitzer, we might be able to later have a have a howitzer show up on on something else that they might be looking at to do. That requires um us moving out of the telephone telephone book era of just having social directories that the high schools provide us. Yeah, thank you. Um And along some of those same lines to add insult to energy injury. The White House has now decided to cancel up to $20,000 student loan per barrier student loan forgiveness and the G. I. Bill are the two of the biggest and most successful since incentives for military recruitment uh to your knowledge, any of you were the consequences of military service recruiting considered during the recent student loan forgiveness. Anybody wanna answer that as senator, I can answer that. Um Certainly for any strategic decision. Um all of the federal agencies are asked for input um and the White House does take that under consideration. Um as for the training and education incentives of the Department of Defense offers that is still a robust package that we can offer to young men and women who are interested in joining the services. And one of the unique things that we have that perhaps other programs don’t have is that under certain conditions you can actually extend those benefits to your family members. And so we still believe that we have a very competitive package to offer to young men and women and potentially their families, health care. G. I. Bill going to school paying for school. I mean they work for welfare benefits. Okay. We all know that. We’ve all seen it heard about it and you know, we, we need to correct some of this, but I want to end this on, uh, I read an article from Thomas spore of the national defense, uh, director of heritage. He says the American military remains a faithful and loyal servant of the republic. Most Americans are still proud and trusting of our military, but this trust and support cannot be taken for granted if American perceive that the military is being exploited for political purpose or being used for experiments and woke social priorities that support will evaporate and the consequences will be dire my hope and prayer or that we figure out all this before. It’s too late. Thank you very much. Thank you. Senator Warren, thank you madam Chair And I’m so glad that senator to Albertville raised the question of debt forgiveness. I’m sure he’s aware that the debt forgiveness package that was designed by the president has disproportionately helped veterans who are struggling with student loan debt because our current benefits do not fully cover the cost of post high school education for them. And I’m glad to get them any help. We can. So I want to Echo my colleague’s concerns about the impact of military sexual assault on recruiting and retention. The Department of Defense found that reports of sexual assault went up 13% in 2021 showing that we are clearly going in the wrong direction. Um, but I also want to follow up on an issue raised by Senator Corona. One of the key tools that our military has for recruitment is the Junior reserve officers Training corps program. The J. R. O. T. C. Program is led by retired members of the military and it’s meant to teach high school students the values of citizenship. Now D. O. D. Is currently studying how this program impacts enlistment as they should, but a previous army study found that these students are more than twice as likely to enlist. Unfortunately, in too many cases it has become also a hunting ground for predators. A recent disturbing investigation by the New York Times found that at least 33 J ROTC instructors have been criminally charged with sexual conduct, which is higher than the rate for civilian school teachers. Now Miss Miller. Obviously if J. R. O. T. C. Instructors are sexually assaulting high school students, we have a pro problem that goes far far beyond the impact of this behavior on recruitment. But I want to ask, how do you think criminal behavior like this by retired members of the armed services reflects on the military Senator. Thank you for that question. We agree that the reports um from the New York times are concerning not only in the fact that this is a criminal act um but to the point that you made that it also reverberates with respect to potential recruitment. Um um And and just cast a pall on the J. R. T. C. Program which as you noted um is a program that we’re very proud of, both of the citizenship development program and as a way to expose you to the prospect of military service. Since many of them have never had that exposure. Um We completely agree that additional oversight is necessary. And as General Miller mentioned, the services are actively engaged in looking at their current oversight structures. We also think that we need to take a hard look at our current background investigation process um regardless of whether that individual um had a background investigation really background investigation recently conducted while they were in service and that we need to look even beyond our traditional background invest Nation to see if there’s other tools that we need to add to that such as potentially social media checks to make sure that we get a 360¬∞ look at those that we are putting in a leadership role to some of our most vulnerable and young Americans. So I very much appreciate this and I’m glad that you give a full answer on this. But I’d like to stress another point here. You’re talking about background checks obviously powerfully important before somebody gets out there. But there’s also a question about supervision once they’re in the field and a question about how to respond when there’s been some kind of concern or allegation raised and I want to give you an example that goes directly to that. The New York Times piece tells the story of dominant Nixon, a young woman who entered the J. R. O. T. C. Program because she wanted to join the Air Force. That’s why she was there. She was groped and harassed by her instructor Brad. Gibson who had retired after 24 years of service in the military. But here’s the part that that really pushes me on this. She reported the incident to a teacher. Apparently Mr. Gibson had already been counseled about quote unquote borderline behavior before he stuck his hand up MS Mixon shirt. So this was not the first time that he had harassed someone but it wasn’t the last time either. MS Nixon’s report went nowhere and she was pushed out of the program. Mr. Gibson, however, continued to lead the J. R. O. T. C. Program. And eight years later MS Nixon received a call that another 16 year old had filed a report saying that Mr. Gibson was groping her. Now General miller should the Air Force be protecting someone like MS Dixon or someone like Mr. Gibson. Thank you senator. Um for letting me talk about this. So the first thing is sexual assault, sexual harassment. Their crimes they are crimes and they’re not tolerable and I will tell you in the Air Force, um we have a very strong preventive program right now and we’re making it more robust, uh specifically on the I. R. C. But we for for junior R. T. C. Or for any individual that is harassed sexually or you know, um anyway that they’re not treated with dignity and respect. They need to report it and they need to report it up and we need to investigate it. So um it should the individual in this particular case, um if he should have been investigated and substantiated, he’s removed from that position forever. Um and so in there and ma’am, just one more, you talked about oversight, um and they’re for junior our Tcs, there’s so many programs and they’re very there’s very little oversight and the Air Force right now, we’re looking at um putting guard and reserve members into some of those programs to provide additional oversight um in that and then also increase the regional directors that are around the world around the country right now, well, you know, there’s an important point you raise because jurisdiction at the federal level is shared between the military services and the Department of Education. But if the military doesn’t step up to prevent these kinds of abuses, then it is the military that is endangering our ability to build up our force for the future and for it to have real credibility. The military screens, these instructors and ultimately it is your reputation on the line. I know that my colleagues and I have a number of questions about the oversight of this program and why it failed these students. Uh, today we sent letters to the D. O. D. And to the Department of Education to try to learn more and I look forward to learning what steps each of you will be taking to make sure that the military is not responsible for the sexual assault of high school students. I see that I’m over on time, but I do want to just follow up with the question about student loan debt And that is lung cancelation right now is helping 43 million Americans who are buried under student loan debt. Uh, it is keeping people from starting small businesses from buying homes from starting families. I just want to ask the question, do any of the witnesses think that ensuring that 43 million Americans keep choking on student loan debt is the best solution to the military’s recruitment. Pro problems Senator appreciate that question. Um, we agree that when we are working with potential applicants, I can say that we do look at debt ratio in terms of what debt they may have. Um, and how they may be able to still continue to execute the commitment to paying off that debt under our, our pay structures, particularly if they’re, they’re starting as a junior enlisted service member. So it is something that we do pay attention to. Um, we do have a strong programs as I said before for training and education, um, which includes the ability to do additional um, uh, incentives for loan repayment. Um, what we actually do find on our side is that in many cases they’re actually more interested in looking at what bonuses we offer because then they have greater flexibility and how they, I want to use that money and potentially paying off that debt or if they want to put it towards another um, priority. But, but we do agree that looking at current debt ratio is something that we do pay attention to. I think maybe I didn’t make my question entirely clear and that’s on me. But I just really want to emphasize the point that surely we have not become a country that thinks that the best way to be able to recruit people into the military is to crush them under a burden of student loan debt and hope that they will then find their way to the military. That we are people who want to show the best of what the military has to offer and work to make sure that none of our young people are crushed by student loan debt. I hope we’re all in agreement on that. I’ll take that as a yes, thank you. Thank you. Senator Warren Senator Tills Miss Miller, the, I suspect that there at least some otherwise qualified recruits who may opt not to go into the military because of the covid vaccine mandate. You all put that policy in place in august of 2021. That’s before we knew a lot about uh that’s before we knew about omicron. Before we knew about the vaccine is only marginally effective at uh at preventing the spread. I had Covid in 2020 I got vaccinated. I had covid again. Um so in light of what we know today is the department considering maybe revising or retracting that requirement or at least using waivers if we have otherwise qualified recruits. Sen. I appreciate that question. Um, I can say as of right now, the department currently has no plans to eliminate the COVID-19 vaccine vaccine mandate. Um we strongly do believe that vaccine requirements significantly enhance the readiness of our force and diminish the threat of serious illness. Do we have any data on people who were in the recruiting pipeline that otherwise opted out because of the the vaccine mandate?

So we do have some survey data where we have asked, we do a market survey data where we asked if the requirement to become vaccinated is a deterrent to considering joining the military services. And the vast number of respondents actually responded that no, it did not significantly influence them one way or the other. The other thing that we implemented um was a attestation form during the early recruitment phase where if they had not already been vaccinated. um we asked them to indicate that they were willingness to be vaccinated for a wide range of conditions once arriving at basic training, as we have always done. We have not seen a significant number of potential applicants declined to endorse that form, nor have we seen a significant number of applicants who once arriving to basic training have then declined to um actually become vaccinated. Thank you. General Step, the secretary of the army has created task force to make recommendations on army recruiting practices. Tell me a little bit about the composition of the task force and when we could expect to work product, Senator Tillis. The army recruiting retention task force is headed up by uh two star general, Major General Deb catholic and has subject matter expertise from across the department staff, United States Army recruiting, command training and doctrine, Command, medical command. All of the subject matter experts are participating. And and this group has been given the charter, you know, quite simply to to look at our recruiting and retention enterprise and and you know, tear it, tear it down to the studs and see what’s out there. What policies procedures do we need to look at uh to set the conditions in 23, and beyond. Sen. Um Thank you. And again the time frame for coming up with recommendations. Senator. They present recommendations uh bi weekly to the chief and the secretary and then the chief and the secretary make a decision and say yes go go forward and action that item. And we’re happy to share with the committee the results of what we see with the recruiting and retention task force dr Strobel. You you mentioned something that I was talking with the subcommittee staff about having uh more information uh with the vast majority of your recruiting online uh and heavy dependence online. Uh getting access to that data. Some of the members of the committee not may not be aware that you all are limited as compared to recruiting and the civilian sector in terms of cookies and tracking and try to tailor the message to the specific profile of the person that’s visiting. Uh One of your websites um have as the have the marines or the department Miss Millar. This may be a question for you made any specific recommendations to Congress. I I know it’s gonna take congressional action if we’re gonna do it. There’s some thorny issues we have to work out around data privacy and uh but I think we need to at least take a look at it. So either dr struggle Miss Miller both uh is the department in a position where they want to make a specific recommendation on a congressional action. Yes sir. I can start and then ask dr Strobel to to follow up. Uh So you’re exactly right. We would very much like to work with the committee to potentially expand our current authorities for marketing and advertising as mentioned before. Our current authorities are are really almost 19 nineties um authorities that really focus on um directory information from telephone books. And we don’t have the same level of ability to access content that say the commercial sector does. Um And we attempt to work with our advertising agencies to try to navigate um and make sure that we get some of that information. But with your support, I think we can do a lot more and certainly recognize your your point about protecting privacy interests. Um We we want to safeguard that as well. Um But what we really want to be able to do here is to be able to able to provide more personalized and tailored content. As I mentioned before, we are trying to recruit from the youth of America that has a vast range of interests. And what we are really right now is a blunt force instrument. And we want to be more strategic. We want to be able to kind of package are messaging so that it can resonate with greatest effect to a generation where we count seconds in terms of being able to capture their attention. And so we want to work with the committee to potentially expand our current authorities to do that. Anything to add. Doctors struggle. Thank you senator. Um I would just add, I really appreciate your interest in this. And I would like to work with with this committee and your staff to uh to uh think about and study how we can better gain access to information that will help us recruit our our ultimate goal. Um or maybe our second goal after maintaining and sustaining readiness and lethality is to optimize our recruiting budget. Uh, so that we um you know, when when I enlisted, there were three TV channels and I got sports illustrated I think and that was how I saw my advertising. Now. It’s so fragmented, it’s become so much more difficult to target advertising. And if we can figure out how to how to leverage some of the technologies that are out there while protecting privacy. I think we can get more bang for our advertising dollar. I think if we do it right, we can address the privacy concerns. You you not only are gonna react be in a position to where you can react to people who visit potential recruiting website, but you can be more proactive and identify people based on other data, just like platforms that are marketing to the population to every single second of the day. I’ve got some other questions. Uh Admiral and General Miller and General State. I’ll be submitting for the record. Thank you for your time. Thank you. Also for your time, I have one question I’m gonna submit for each of you to respond to. And that’s following up on Senator Hirono and Senator Warren’s line of question. Um Lieutenant General, you’re right to say these are crimes and they’re not tolerated. But that’s not how you should see this problem because With a 1% conviction rate, does that mean not tolerated?

I don’t think so. The message that goes to service members to potential recruits is it is tolerated because it’s not prosecuted and not prosecuted effectively. So I would just suggest an ounce of humility because this is an area where we do not excel And the most recent report was the worst ever 35,000 estimated cases and General Austin cares deeply about this issue. He um empaneled experts to come up with recommendations. We are going to implement those recommendations and something Senator Tillis and I worked very hard on, we’re gonna have independent prosecutors up and running for top 10 crimes. Um, that’s gonna take a little while to get up and running. But what I would like is a thoughtful analysis from each of you about what you can do as commanders, as policy makers to create a culture and to create a climate where the message is received. That valuing your fellow service member is one of the most important characteristics that is necessary for promotion. The value of your fellow service members is necessary character for you to stay in the military and that sexual assault, sexual harassment, posting naked pictures of your fellow service members. All of that behavior is something that will end your career. It’s a message that has to be sent from commanders about climate. So even though we will have expert prosecutors, hopefully taking more cases to trial. If you don’t have a climate that says we want people to be valued, it’s not gonna work. So Senator Tillis and I worked extremely hard on this issue. I do not expect things to get better quickly, but I do expect everyone to understand. We are still failing our service members and we are not prosecuting enough cases. We’re not getting enough cases end in conviction and we’re not preventing enough. We had a G. A. O. Report one of our hearings last year that said this committee had put forward something like 200 different um policy ideas and at least 50 that were preventative and only a handful of the preventative measures were implemented. That’s a commander problem for not implementing the things that Congress is asking you to do that are preventive in nature. It means we’re not taking it seriously. So it’s about how serious to take the problem. Do you know?

It’s real. Do you know, we’re not good at getting it done. So please write analysis of what you’d like to do within your service. What you think would be helpful from Senator Tillis and I what other policy ideas we should be thinking about. Um but I’d really like a thoughtful response. I do not want something defensive and I do not want something declaring victory. If I get either thing This exercise was useless, so I love big ideas, thoughtful ideas and ones that Senator Tillis and I can work on for next year’s personnel mark. Because I promise you this problem is not going away, and it is a reason why especially women um are not as interested in joining the armed services. So thank you for today. Thank you for your testimony. Um thank you for being so thoughtful and responsive to each of the senators um hearing adjourned.

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