According to Army Recruiting Command statistics, the vast majority of applicants to the military, 71%, are turned away because of problems like drug addiction, obesity, cognitive deficiencies, or moral ones (read: prior arrests), leaving recruiters desperate to fill increasing quotas even as the pool of suitable applicants continues to decline.
This is especially worrisome because budget documents this year indicate that the military is intent on bringing thousands more new recruits into all services, including the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Marine Corps, The Washington Times reports.
A non-profit organization called “Mission: Readiness” states that obesity during childhood is ruining the chance of potential recruits to join the military. Around 18% of disqualifications are due to weight issues, a figure that is on the rise. Obesity is an issue because heavy recruits are more likely to suffer injury, particularly musculoskeletal problems, which often last a lifetime.
In comparison, cognitive and moral deficiencies have remained fairly constant over time. For example, a steady 30% of potential recruits with a high school degree in hand fail the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) which tests for basic math and reading skills. Similarly, the military requires its recruits to be of good moral character, meaning that in some cases, a bad credit history may be taken into account by the service. Additionally, a background of crime warrants disqualification, and individuals subject to probation, parole, or imprisonment may not join. Approximately 10% of potential recruits are excluded because of a criminal background.
Apart from individual fitness, two additional factors coming into play in 2015 will make recruiting 39,860 men and women to the reserves a challenge. First, the economy is improving, meaning that many of the men and women who would otherwise have gone into the military are attracted to opportunities in the private sector. Second, now that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are drawing to a complete close, the chance for glory has considerably waned.
“There’s lots of jobs out there, and now it looks like the military is not as involved in as many operations that seem exciting to 18-year-olds,” Lt. Gen. David Barno told the Washington Times, adding:
So it’s going to be very, very tough to recruit in that population. It’s going to be some really, really challenging times coming up for recruiters.
Issues of physical, moral, and mental fitness also apply to reservists. Once training is over, reservists have to keep a consistent schedule of mandatory training for at least one weekend every month. For two weeks a year, reservists have to complete specialized training. But recruiters are saying that when the time comes, the number of reservists capable of active service plummets to just 30% as 7 out of 10 fail to pass screening procedures.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is already facing major personnel shortages in its drone program. Personnel leaving the program have complained about the incredibly long hours which are both exhausting and prevent further military education. Since this hurts future career prospects in the military, drone pilots seem to have had it with Air Combat Command.
Programs to motivate recruiters into encouraging more civilians into the military have also backfired, in that the generous incentives which exist to motivate more aggressive efforts often end in abuse. Last year, Army criminal investigators examined allegations that hundreds of recruiters submitted false referrals to collect bonuses totaling $29 million dollars. The investigation is so extensive that it is expected to continue well into 2016, according to the Washington Post.
This report, by Jonah Bennett, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.