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National

Pentagon Chief Searches For Beginning And Mid-Career Talent

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Pentagon has been cutting the size of its forces, but it's also looking for fresh talent. Defense Secretary Ash Carter wants to prepare for new challenges, and that may include finding older workers to take on jobs as cyber-warriors. Carter outlined his plans at his old high school in suburban Philadelphia. NPR's Tom Bowman has more.

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Carter turned himself into something of a military recruiter-in-chief yesterday. He told the students that a military career means travel, education benefits, responsibility and leadership. And he said that their comfort with technology will help a Pentagon that's putting a greater emphasis on drones and satellites.

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U.S. SECRETARY OF DEFENSE ASH CARTER: We're going to be competing hard for talent like yours around the country.

BOWMAN: Carter wasn't just looking for bright, young students to sign up. He indicated their parents might be a good fit for the military as well.

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CARTER: But for certain specialty jobs like cybersecurity, we need to be looking at ways to bring in more qualified people, even if they're already in the middle of their career rather than just starting out.

BOWMAN: To do that, Carter would likely need congressional backing to waive age requirements for the military or provide higher pay to mid-career professionals. And he didn't stop there. Carter said that those already in the military should be able to go on sabbatical to get a degree, learn a new skill or start a family. Todd Harrison is a defense analyst with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. He says Carter's making a lot of sense.

TODD HARRISON: People within the military and outside the military have long been talking about how the career model of the service member has got to change and adapt.

BOWMAN: Young people want flexibility, Harrison said. They don't plan on 20 years in the same job. And experienced mid-career people would fit the Pentagon's needs for current high-tech jobs. Carter doesn't expect this to happen overnight. He called the Pentagon a pretty closed five-sided box. So he said we need to think outside of it. Tom Bowman, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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