Military Recruitment Flatlines As American ‘Propensity To Serve’ Fades
Authored by John Haughey via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
The United States military is facing recruitment shortfalls with only the Marine Corps and the newly created Space Force meeting 2022 enlistment quotas, an issue that could undermine the Pentagon’s readiness to address the “pacing challenges” posed by the People’s Republic of China and Russia.
The U.S. Army in 2022 missed its recruiting goal by 15,000 active-duty soldiers, or 25 percent of its target, leaving the nation’s largest military force 7 percent smaller than it was two years ago.
The U.S. Navy came within several dozen of its 2022 enlistment goal but only after lowering its recruiting quota, increasing its oldest enlistment age from 39 to 41, and lowering other standards.
The U.S. Air Force met its 2022 recruiting goal but, according to Alex Wagner, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, in 2023 it anticipates it “will miss its recruiting goal for the first since 1999.”
Wagner was among the eight officials representing the individual military branches and the Department of Defense (DOD) to testify on March 15 before the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee’s Personnel Subcommittee about issues confronting the military’s 2.1 million active-duty members, the DOD’s 700,000 civilian employees, and their families.
“Today the military faces a recruiting crisis,” Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) said, noting in 2023 it is expected that “the Army and Navy will miss the mark by 10,000 each,” fostering an “unprecedented” challenge that will be the nine-member sub-panels “top priority to fix” in the coming two years.
Shrinking Recruit Pool
DOD and service branch officials said the shortfalls are partly attributable to endemic obesity, educational deficiencies, mental health problems, and criminal backgrounds that disqualify more than three-quarters of the nation’s service-eligible population from serving in the military.
Officials also cited a “historically strong” job market, salaries, housing, access to health care, and the demands of active duty service among factors contributing to the recruitment shortfalls.
Taking care of military families and individual service members’ needs is “just as much a readiness issue” as having the weapons and equipment to fight, Chair Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said.
Warren cited plans with the Biden administration’s $886.3 billion Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget request to enhance access to health care, child care, and upgrade military family housing all part of a campaign to boost recruitment.
Among DOD initiatives to improve recruiting is a proposed $40 million marketing campaign that will complement and amplify each of the service branch’s recruitment programs.
“We need to do a better job of telling our story and marketing ourselves,” Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Henry Cisneros told the panel, noting it was the largest marketing request of this type ever made by the Pentagon separately from the individual service branches.
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) said her proposed “Enlist Act” would expand recruiting to include childhood arrivals “and other longtime residents who can pass background checks and meet standards” as one way to boost enlistments.
Sen. Ted Budd (R-N.C.) asked why the Pentagon does not allow service members to work with organizations such as Our Community Salutes.
Budd also asked Cisneros if the defense department is reaching out to those booted from the military for not complying with the Pentagon’s COVID vaccine mandate.
“That would be a question that would be better answered by the services,” he said, although the Pentagon has made it clear that service members can “apply for an accommodation” and that the services have told members there is a process they can apply to be exempted.
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