The US Army has so far recruited just around half of the 60,000 new soldiers it hoped to enlist by October 1, officials said on Tuesday, saying that if the downward trend is not reversed, it could have a significant impact on combat readiness in the coming years.
“We’ve got unprecedented challenges with both a post-Covid-19 environment and labor market, but also competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time,” the vice chief of staff for the Army, General Joseph Martin, told a House Armed Services subcommittee, according to AP.
The US military has had a difficult time attracting new soldiers, posting its lowest recruitment numbers in decades this year. Last month, the Pentagon admitted it was 23% behind recruiting goals. The problem has been widely blamed on bad advertising – specifically the recent trend toward ‘woke’ advertising, which has been widely mocked on social media – and a sloppy, antiquated recruitment system that places too much responsibility in the hands of outside contractors.
Facing the most severe recruiting problems across all military branches, the US Army is currently offering bonuses of up to $50,000 – which could turn out to be much less in practice – for a six-year enlistment, but is still struggling to find enough volunteers. Martin projected that the Army could fall from the expected 476,000 troops to 466,400 by the end of this fiscal year, and to as few as 445,000 by the end of 2023.
“The Army is facing our most challenging recruiting environment since the inception of the all-volunteer force,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at the hearing. “We are facing a very fundamental question… Do we lower standards to meet end strength, or do we lower end strength to maintain a quality, professional force? We believe the answer is obvious – quality is more important than quantity.”
An internal Defense Department survey seen by NBC last month showed that just 9% of eligible citizens aged 17-24 have any intention to serve in the armed forces, the lowest number since 2007. At the same time, the overall number of Americans physically, mentally, and morally qualified to join has dropped from 29% to 23% in recent years.
According to the Pentagon, the top three reasons potential recruits gave for wanting to join the military were money, paying for college, and travel. Meanwhile, the top three reasons against joining were listed as fear of injury or death, psychological trauma, and sexual harassment or assault.
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