The U.S. military has been struggling to keep recruitment numbers up and has fallen short of its goals this year. While some may want to dismiss this issue as just a military problem, the reasons behind it may be part of broader political and cultural battles in the U.S.
Military officials said that the Army fell short of its recruitment goal by about 15,000 soldiers, the Associated Press reported on Saturday.
That is about 25 percent short of its recruitment goal, the AP noted.
“In the Army’s most challenging recruiting year since the start of the all-volunteer force, we will only achieve 75 percent of our fiscal year 22 recruiting goal. The Army will maintain its readiness and meet all our national security requirements,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth announced in a statement to the AP.
“If recruiting challenges persist, we will draw on the Guard and Reserve to augment active-duty forces, and may need to trim our force structure,” Wormuth added.
The Army is not the only branch struggling though.
While the Air Force was able to reach its recruitment goal, it was only able to meet the goal by pulling from its delayed entry pool, the AP reported.
The Air Force recruited 26,151 recruits this year.
“Using Air Force lexicon, I would say we’re doing a dead stick landing as we come into the end of fiscal ’22, and we’re going to need to turn around on the first of October and do an afterburner takeoff,” head of the Air Force Recruiting Service, Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas, said, the AP reported. “We’re going to be starting 2023 in a tougher position than we started 2022.”
Even the Marine Corps is having issues.
“The Marine Corps, which usually goes into each fiscal year with as much as 50 percent of its recruiting goal already locked in, has only a bit more than 30 percent,” the AP reported.
The military has been struggling with recruitment for some time, and it has been noticeable for the past several months as other major news outlets began reporting on the issue.
In June, NBC News reported that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and other top officials see the recruiting issue as a very serious problem.
NBC News reported that the number of Americans who are even eligible to join the military has shrunk due to obesity and drug and criminal record issues.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville even testified before Congress earlier in the year noting that eligibility had fallen.
“Only 23 percent of Americans qualify for our job. We have people who want to go in the Army, but they can’t pass the tests. They’re either not physically fit, or they can’t pass the ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery),” McConville said, an article from the U.S. Army reported.
But aside from mere eligibility, NBC News also reported that a Defense Department survey found that only 9 percent of those who were eligible to serve in the military had any inclination to. That is the lowest number seen since 2007.
Some have said that the current job market has played a part in the growing disinclination of young men and women to join the military.
“The current white-hot labor market, with many more jobs available than people to fill them, is also a factor, as rising civilian wages and benefits make military service less enticing,” the New York Times noted.
While there are many factors that contribute to a lack of military recruitment, one that should not be lightly dismissed is the political factor.
Some young Americans may not want to join the military due to the politicization that has taken place, particularly in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ongoing disputes over vaccinations and other various political and social ramifications that sprung up during the pandemic.
When it comes to COVID vaccination, for example, which has become not just a medical question but also a social issue, many soldiers already in the military even took issue with it. That led to the Army discharging hundreds of soldiers.
For refusing to be vaccinated for COVID, more than 1,700 people have been discharged from the Army, the Post Millenial reported.
But aside from the vaccination question, others have also noted military leadership’s interference in other social issues, which has made many Americans unhappy.
Even those who have scolded conservative personalities and politicians for being critical of politicization in the military have agreed, nonetheless, that there has been politicization in the military.
Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, called out Sen. Ted Cruz for mocking the military leadership but also noted that military leadership has been “talking so much about social issues and so little about fighting and winning wars — the reason we actually have a military,” Politico reported.
Defense Secretary Austin has also mandated that soldiers complete a diversity and inclusion training program, Politico reported.
It’s important to note that traditionally conservative regions of the U.S. have been where recruitment for the military is the highest, the Council on Foreign Relations reported.
In 2018 the states that had the highest recruiting numbers were California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and New York. While New York and California are not typically heavily conservative states due to their large cities, Texas, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina have pretty strong track records as conservative-leaning states.
Throughout the years, the overall makeup of the military has also consistently leaned conservative.
Taking all this into account, along with various other factors (the current job market and other shifts in the economy do also play into military recruitment) begins to paint a clearer picture of why the military is now struggling to get enough recruits.
It’s an issue that should be concerning to the general American population since everyone broadly depends on the military for protection.
While political, social and cultural battles can be fought on nearly every other front of societal institutions, it’s dangerous to have a politicized military because of the very issue that is now emerging. Make the military political and it could literally drive away soldiers.
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