The Roots and Impacts of the U.S. Army’s Recruitment Struggles
As tensions flare up in the Middle East and elsewhere, the U.S. military’s role in global stability has never been more critical. Recent aid to allies like Israel and Ukraine underscores America’s continued commitment to international peacekeeping efforts. However, within the homeland, the military is facing its own challenges—a notable one being a significant recruitment shortfall. This is especially true for the U.S. Army, the largest military branch, which fell significantly short of its recruitment goals in the 2022/23 fiscal year.
The Alarming Statistics
The U.S. Army had aimed to recruit 60,000 new soldiers in fiscal year 2022/23 (ending in September) but fell short by 15,000 recruits, missing its target by 25%. This has been described as the most challenging year for military recruitment since the draft was abolished 50 years ago. For 2023/24, it seems the trend is unlikely to reverse, with three of the five military branches, including the Army, on track to miss their recruitment numbers yet again.
Root Causes of the Recruitment Crisis
Several factors contribute to this alarming decline in recruitment. Although the Arny cites a variety of reasons, such as family separation and PTSD, as reasons for not joining, military leadership continues to be consciencely tone-deaf to the real reasons the young don’t enlist:
- Top Leadership Distrust: A good portion of Americans, including Iraqi War-era veterans who are now parents, say they don’t trust military leadership, a sentiment amplified by recent dubious warzone drawdowns, including both Iraq and Afghanistan.
- Violations of Religious Beliefs: Thousands of service members were reprimanded and separated from service for conscientious objections to the COVID-19 vaccine.
- Woke Indoctrination: As Thomas Spoehr pointed out in a June/July, 2022, Imprimis article: “The largest threat they [veteran soldiers] see by far to our current military is the weakening of its fabric by radical progressive (or woke) policies being imposed, not by a rising generation of slackers, but by the very leaders charged with ensuring their readiness.”
- Only 23% of Americans are Eligible: The proportion of Americans meeting the baseline criteria for military service has declined, dropping from 29% in 2013 to just 23% in 2023. According to Defense Department data, approximately 4% of these eligible candidates would be disqualified due to psychological or developmental conditions, such as autism, depression, or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. This amounts to thousands of potential American youths being ruled out annually.
(Below) In the following Full Measure report, journalist Sharyl Attkisson does a deep dive into the recruitment problems the U.S. military faces.
Attempts to Counter the Recruitment Slump
To combat this recruitment crisis, the U.S. Army launched Operation Power Surge, aimed at encouraging high school students to consider military careers. New marketing strategies, like updated “Be All You Can Be” campaigns and digital ambassadors, have also been deployed.
Interestingly, despite challenges in recruiting, the retention rate within the military is at an all-time high, according to Brigadier General Pat Ryder.
Army Fails to Address Core Issue in Poor Recruitment: Bad Decision-Making by Leadership
In late Winter 2023, the Army relaunched its iconic “Be All You Can Be” marketing campaign. Yet Army brass continues to cite longstanding excuses for low recruitment numbers: homesickness, the risk of injury or death, and concerns about PTSD. These rationales have been handed to recruiters for decades and don’t go to the heart of the Army’s current recruitment challenges.
The real problem is the adoption of “wokeness” into the institution. The Army, along with the other branches, have dived into controversial waters with some of their recent recruitment strategies. For example, the use of an active-duty drag queen as a digital recruiting “ambassador” sparked debate on whether the military is becoming too progressive —a criticism fueled by the increasing role of Far-Left social issues within the Army apparatus. The largest segment of the Army’s infantry is the white male; and this patriotic target segment seems to have been completely dropped from the Army’s focus.
(Below) The following official Army recruiting video (circa 2021) shows how deep Far Left values have penetrated the U.S. Army. Surely, our country’s great generals, like MacArthur and Patton, wouldn’t have approved of the promotion of this ideology.
(Below) In this CBS News report, the Army’s Sergeant Major Michael Grinston, and Major General Alex Fink (both now retired) deflect traditional excuses from potential recruits and discuss the All You Can Be reboot marketing campaign.
The Long-Term Implications
Maintaining a fully staffed U.S. Army is crucial not only for national security but also for upholding international peace and stability. A strong military presence serves as a powerful deterrent against potential aggressors and is vital for immediate response to emerging global crises. With the recent flare-up of conflict in Israel and increasing tensions between China and Taiwan, the role of a well-staffed Army becomes even more significant. It allows the United States to support its allies effectively and to have a real-time impact on rapidly unfolding conflicts.
Furthermore, a robust Army ensures that the U.S. can fulfill its various international commitments, from NATO obligations to UN peacekeeping missions. It also allows for the sustainment of technological and tactical superiority, a critical element in modern warfare. A shortfall in recruitment numbers could compromise these aspects, putting national and global stability at risk. As we navigate a world marked by increasing uncertainty and complex challenges, the importance of a fully staffed and prepared U.S. Army has never been more critical.