The U.S. military faces a challenge recruiting people with the high-tech skills it needs for the future as those who joined after the Sep. 11, 2001 attacks leave the service and the U.S. economy creates more jobs, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said on Monday.

Carter, in a speech at his former high school, said the military has to attract about 250,000 people a year just to keep up with those who retire or leave the service to pursue jobs, education and other opportunities in the civilian world.

At the same time, only about a third of the 21 million Americans age 17 to 21 are eligible to join the military, with half unable to pass the entry examination and the rest ineligible because they are unable to meet the physical fitness or character standards, he said.

He urged young people to consider joining the military noting that while the sacrifices were real, there were great opportunities as well, including up to $284,000 through the GI bill to help pay for college.

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