The survival of the all-volunteer force may be in jeopardy, according to a former senior military officer who told ABC News that the U.S. military has a recruiting problem.
Pentagon records reveal a clear, alarming trend: Less and less young Americans desire to serve, and fewer are qualified owing to obesity and other issues.
In a testimony on Capitol Hill in late April, the top official in charge of personnel and readiness for the Defense Department cited the nation’s competitive employment market as a primary factor.
“The Department faces intense competition for talented, cutting-edge workers. The military-civilian divide and the consequences of the pandemic on the labor market make for a difficult recruiting climate “At a hearing of the Armed Services Subcommittee, Gilbert Cisneros informed the senators.
According to a former senior military officer, it is extremely difficult for recruiters today to persuade young people to enroll because private enterprises often provide attractive incentives.
“Many of the services we used to provide, like the GI Bill, are now provided by the private sector. Thus, they are no longer advantageous “Former top official’s statement
Even the Marine Corps, which typically has no trouble recruiting new members, is under pressure to achieve its objectives.
Before appearing with Cisneros at the Senate hearing in April, Marine Lt. Gen. David Ottingnon stated in written evidence that “we made mission last year; but, FY22 has proved to be possibly the most trying year in recruitment ever.” In addition to COVID-19, the Marine Corps’ accession mission is put at risk by a population of young people who do not perceive the purpose of military service, a labor scarcity, high inflation, and a falling favorable opinion of established institutions among the American populace.
According to Defense Department polling data provided to ABC News, only 9% of young people now exhibit an inclination to serve. The number is the lowest in fifteen years.
The likelihood of harm or death as well as the worry of experiencing PTSD or other psychological issues are the main deterrents for not joining.
But there are also fewer young individuals who can join the military because they fit the requirements.
Only 23% of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are permitted to enlist without a waiver. According to figures from the Pentagon, this has decreased from 29 percent in previous years. Drug use and obesity are frequent grounds for rejection.
The former senior official, who stays in touch with active-duty leaders, claimed that the Army has given up trying to get new recruits to run during the first two weeks of basic training due to some of them being in terrible physical condition.
The former official stated, “They have to educate them how to run, and they’ve had problems with bone density to the point where, when they do run them, they’ve ended up breaking a leg or worse, a hip.” “I’ve even heard that in some circumstances, they’re putting them on Ensure diets to build that bone density,” said the speaker.
The issue is more serious than the public is aware, according to a second former senior military officer, who spoke to ABC News.
“They believe there are several types of kids nearby to the normal person who is unaware of the situation. Yes, but if they have a history of drug misuse, are fat, or any of these other problems, they cannot be enlisted in the Army. Consequently, the population is substantially smaller “Another former official stated.
Although the Army’s enlisted active-duty recruiting target for FY21 was significantly exceeded, it has only reached around 40% of its target for FY22, which expires in three months.
Because high school graduation happens in the last few months of the fiscal quarter, the Army typically recruits the majority of its members for the year at that time. However, an Army official noted that “this is an unprecedented year.” The Army is obviously not where it wants to be.
The Army said this week that it was “providing limited eligibility for applicants who do not have a GED or High School diploma to enlist in the Regular Army” in an effort to broaden its pool of potential recruits.
According to the Army, the chance is not brand-new and some recruits without high school degrees or GEDs have been accepted in the past, “but on a very restricted basis.” Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery scores of at least 50, which imply scoring in the 50th percentile, were required of prospective recruits without the required educational credentials.
Even while the possibility was not brand-new, the Army had not actively promoted it until this week.
The second former senior military officer discussed the significance that degrees had throughout their service.
“If they had completed high school, it indicated that they had begun and completed a task. And because of that discipline, they had a far higher chance of succeeding in the Army “The former representative added.
The Army Recruiting Command’s website’s welcome message for qualified non-graduates was taken down on Thursday. The effort is being put on hold as the Army reevaluates its merits, according to two Army officials who spoke with ABC News.
One Army officer with direct knowledge of the choice said, “The Army has temporarily paused its efforts to take some time to ensure that this option sets recruits prepared for success in their Army careers.”
Another Army official stated, “The authorities exist, but at this time we’re not bringing them in.” According to this person, it’s likely that Army officials will ultimately decide to go ahead and enlist a small number of qualified non-graduates in order to determine whether doing so would be feasible on a bigger scale.
Neither officer was able to provide information on the number of non-graduates who have previously been granted waivers to join.
A bleak picture of the military as a whole was presented by the first former senior defense official.
“I genuinely worry about the sustainability of the all-volunteer military. I don’t see anything altering that will turn this ship around at the moment. There are many problems out there that need to be rectified, despite the fact that many good individuals are doing everything they can “The former representative added.
Greater incentive tools for recruiters would be beneficial, though, according to the former official, more financing for things like enlistment bonuses and higher pay would probably come at the expense of other crucial military programs.
According to Cisneros, the FY23 defense budget’s inclusion of a 4.6 percent military pay boost will help. He also stated that he is collaborating closely with the services to “use all authority, resources, and instruments” in order to address recruiting issues.
The second former senior military officer claimed that the difficulty in recruiting is a symptom of larger social issues.
“It’s a critique of our nation. These recruiters observe these issues personally every day because it is our country “The former representative remarked.