Every time you turn on the TV or read an article online, you hear about something going on with the military. There are stories of sexual harassment and abuse. There are horrors of burn pits. There are investigations into base housing.
When all anyone hears are the negative aspects of being in the military, it would be hard for anyone to get excited about signing up.
Regardless of the military branch, recruiting is down. Air Force, Space Corps, Navy, Army, Marines – they’re all struggling to entice people to join the ranks. That’s even with quite a few impressive sign-on bonuses that they have available to lure good individuals into their branch.
The question is, just how down is recruiting? And, what does that mean for our military readiness?
Lawmakers have already recognized that numbers are down. They’ve also voiced concerns as to how this will affect the Defense Department in the coming years.
The leaders at the Pentagon are quick to dismiss the concerns. They have explained that recruiting challenges are not at a threatening level – at least not yet.
In a budget hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, officials from the five military branches have said that it has been “arguably the most challenging recruiting year.”
In terms of active-duty recruits, the Army has only achieved 23% of its goal within the first five months of fiscal 2022. The service leaders are still optimistic, however.
As for the Air Force, they are on track but may fall 1 or 2% below the levels that have been mandated by Congress.
Others, including Marine Corps, Space Corps, and Navy have plans to reach their recruiting goals, but it won’t be easy. The Navy has also identified that they may have fewer deferred entry candidates in 2022, which may result in recruiting problems in the future.
Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) raised concern. He wants the numbers to be a wake-up call. “I’m worried we’re now in the early days of a long-term threat to the all-volunteer force, with a small and declining number of Americans who are eligible and interested in military service.”
Currently, the U.S. has an all-volunteer force because people volunteer to sign up. No one is forced to sign up. However, there is what is known as Conscription, otherwise known as the draft. And the U.S. has been known to draft people when the volunteer levels are insufficient. We’ve drafted for a number of conflicts, starting with the Revolutionary War and ending with the Vietnam War.
Basically, we haven’t had to worry about drafting anyone since 1973 – and the goal is to keep it that way.
Many within the Pentagon want to continue to downplay the issue, promising that recruiting levels are not a threat – and that there are plenty of plans in place to get people recruited.
John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary mentioned in a press conference that “[Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] recognizes that the services have unique recruiting demands, not just in terms of numbers, but in terms of skill sets. It is absolutely on his mind.”
We’re glad it’s on his mind. And as many have pointed out, the post-pandemic labor market hasn’t helped. Private companies are competing for qualified candidates just as the Department of Defense is, too.
Other problems also exist since not anyone can join the military – rising obesity and drug use among Americans also leads to recruiting challenges.
Let’s hope the leaders can start to provide a better working environment for our military service members. Otherwise, there will be a draft, and no one will be able to turn down the call.