Three Reasons Why Military Recruitment Is in Crisis

(Ryan McMaken, Mises Institute) By the middle of 2022, it was already become apparent that the US military was having problems meeting recruitment goals. In August last year, The AP reported that the Army would have to cut force size, and an army spokesman admitted the Army was facing “‘unprecedented challenges’ in bringing in recruits.” This came even with new larger enlistment bonuses. The problem, however, wasn’t as acute for the Air Force, Navy, or Marine Corps. 

Since then, things haven’t gotten any better for recruiters. Now, recruitment shortfalls have spread well beyond the Army.  The New York Post reported last week:

Much of the military will fall short of recruitment goals by as much as 25% this year …

The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard are all expected to fall short of their recruitment goals this year, they told The Post. …

A spokesperson for the Air Force said they will likely miss their goal of 26,877 new recruits by 10%. The Coast Guard said they will likely only fill 75% of the number of full-time, non-commissioned recruits they need.

And as of April, the Navy, which has over 300,000 active duty personnel, was behind by 6,000 new recruits this year, and the Army by 10,000 out of their 65,000 goal.

2023 is the first time the Air Force has missed its recruiting goals since 1999

Apparently, potential recruits aren’t buying whatever it is the military is selling these days as reasons for signing away one’s freedom to federal bureaucrats for a period of years. After all, the military is the only job that one can’t quit at any time, so any intelligent person will think long and hard before signing up. 

There are many reasons for the recruitment problem. The decline in mental and physical fitness is real, and many young people are disqualified from a military job even before applying. Many others are put off by what appears to be an overtly politicized and partisan military.

Pentagon leaders appear to be doubling down on ideological crusades more and more. Even while it faces a recruiting crisis, the military still refuses to provide back pay to service members who were forced out for declining the experimental covid vaccines. Unquestioning compliance with vaccine mandates, of course, is a cause near and dear to the current administration.

Then there are the “woke” crusades in which military brass use drag queens as Navy recruiters and create recruitment ads tailor-made for LGBT personnel. The military wants to let you know they’ll affirm your gender transition—unless, of course, that gets in way of conscription. (The Pentagon claims the “woke” issue isn’t having much effect on recruitment.)

But there are other more deep-seated problems as well. There is growing evidence that the American public no longer reveres the military as it once did. Moreover, it is more abundantly clear than ever that military service has nothing to do with defending the United States or its people. And then there is the often-seen “problem” of low unemployment and the fact the private sector is drawing the best workers away from military careers.