Churn a concern as ADF tackles 'scary' troop shortfall

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Australia's inability to recruit enough new defence force members and retain its current personnel has been branded "pretty scary".

A parliamentary committee is examining new ways to attract and keep people in the armed forces, as the Australian Defence Force faces a high churn rate and a failure to meet growth targets.

Labor MP and defence subcommittee chair Julian Hill told the hearing on Tuesday the latest figures were "pretty scary".

They revealed a separation rate from the ADF of 11.3 per cent which amounted to 6600 people leaving every year.

The defence force was also falling behind in its recruitment target, estimating it will get to 73 per cent.

The defence department was also 600 short of the public servants needed.

Major General Wade Stothart said defence undertook exit surveys for personnel leaving, and found the reasons were "relatively consistent".

Those reasons were usually due to family circumstances including spouse employment, community connections, and schooling for children.

"We have been addressing those root causes with varying degrees of effectiveness over a longer period of time," Maj Gen Stothart said.

"Those connections from the exit survey towards the programs and services, those linkages could be more robust."

In a bid to halt the number of personnel leaving the defence force, the federal government has pledged a $50,000 cash bonus for permanent members near the end of their initial mandatory period of service, if they commit to the military for another three years.

Maj Gen Stothart said the defence force would find it more challenging to plan its  workforce in shorter time cycles.

He said the ADF was considering the possibility of mid-career entry and how it can become more flexible in recruiting people.