Space Force officials hope to maximize recruiting of new guardians by granting more waivers for enlistment standards to individuals with high-demand skills, the nominee to lead the service said Tuesday.

The move comes as the military branches are struggling with recruiting and retention amid a wealth of private-sector job openings. Army officials have said they expect to miss their recruiting goals for fiscal 2022. Air Force officials said they expect to just barely meet their active-duty targets.

In contrast, officials from Space Force, which has only about 8,400 personnel, have not had the same level of recruiting challenges. Lt. Gen. Bradley Saltzman, who was nominated in August by the White House to serve as the second chief of the young service, told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that “we have more volunteers that we have spots to fill.”

But he also noted the skill sets requirements of would-be guardians is higher than that of the other services.

“We may be a small force, but we require highly skilled technical experts to be brought in to do these important critical missions,” Saltzman told the senators.

“We also have an advantage by being small that we can consider on a case-by-case basis the right kinds of people with the right skill sets and the right diversity of thought to optimize our capabilities. We don’t have to put blanket restrictions on types of people or types of qualifications that bring you into the Space Force.”

Saltzman said if confirmed, he plans to “broaden this out to as many people as possible” to ensure the force has high-quality recruits able to step into Space Force missions right away.

Military officials for years have discussed ways to bring in recruits with computer expertise or other specialized skills without dramatically lowering fitness and conduct standards for the entire fighting force.

Currently, more than two-thirds of the Space Force’s personnel is made up of servicemembers who have transferred from other branches of the military.

As the force shifts to more outside recruits, Saltzman said he hopes to boost the force’s technical capabilities significantly, and provide a blueprint for how expanded military recruiting can be done successfully.

“We have a tremendous opportunity, because of the numbers that we need to bring in, to be more individualistic,” he said.

Saltzman, who has served as deputy chief of space operations for the last two years, is expected to be confirmed to the post in coming weeks. He will replace Gen. John Raymond, who has led the Space Force since its establishment in December 2019 and is expected to retire later this year.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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