By Micaela Burrow
- The Army is on track to meet an ambitious recruiting target in 2023 after missing the previous year’s goal by 25%, according to Military.com.
- Increased attention from Army leadership on recruiting problems and a shift in how the Army presents itself likely contributed to the numbers boost, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
- A decrease in the number of young people eligible for enlistment in the U.S. at large reflects a “crisis for our society,” Luke Coffey, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the DCNF.
The Army is on track to meet its beefed up recruitment targets for fiscal year 2023, a result of service leaders increasing focus on recruiting and adapting to a more challenging target pool, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Army has added an estimated 18,500 new soldiers to the ranks with 13,000 more in processing since the fiscal year 2023 began on Oct. 1, Army Recruiting Command head Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis told Military.com on Thursday, putting the service on track to meet or exceed its goal after falling deeply behind in 2022. Service leaders have worked to change how the Army presents itself to recruits and broaden the recruiting base, a shift in tactics that may become critical as fewer and fewer Americans are eligible to join, experts told the DCNF.
“I think the Army is getting better at recruiting,” Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, told the DCNF. “They were complacent for a number of years and took it for granted that people come to them, and they’re now very much in the mode of reaching out to prospects than they were in the past.” (RELATED: Here’s How The Military Dropped Its Standards In 2022 To Address A Major Recruiting Crisis)
The Army missed its recruiting objectives for 2022 of 60,000 new members by 25%; to make up for that offset, the service set its goal for 2023 to 65,000 recruits, according to Military.com. If the Army kept the pace of the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year, it would rocket past that goal by 9,000 recruits.
“Things are getting better,” Davis told Military.com.
“There are several lines of effort in place” to boost recruiting, a Recruiting Command spokesperson told the DCNF.
Part of the upswing in recruiting can be attributed to increased attention from all levels of Army leadership on the specific challenges of recruiting from a new generation, involving commanders who would not normally focus on recruiting in a service-wide initiative, Spoehr explained to the DCNF.
The Army doubled down on messaging about benefits and career opportunities available to soldiers, a response to criticism the service failed to understand Gen Z’s perceptions of Army life, Military.com reported.
“As each generation comes to age for military service, you’re gonna have to adapt and tweak how you recruit,” Luke Coffey, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told the DCNF. Heightened scrutiny from government officials and commentators may have also moved the service to devote increased time and resources toward alleviating the recruiting crisis, he added.
The Army’s parallel efforts to improve quality of life for its 8,500 recruiters, including tailored housing options and better benefits, as well as offering financial rewards per successful recruit may have paid off, according to Military.com.
Signs that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate would end soon increased throughout 2022, which could have persuaded more individuals to enlist, Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness told the DCNF.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth attributed the service’s recruiting woes to a number of causes, including increased competition with the private sector for employees, lingering effects of COVID-19 on recruiters’ ability to reach target demographics and loss of trust in the military. Others have criticized the military’s perceived politicization and takeover by “woke” ideologies that discourage parents from supporting service for their children of enlistment age.
Of the new recruits for 2023, at least 3,000 have emerged from the Future Soldier Prep Course, a pilot program rolled out in August that put potential recruits who don’t quite meet the Army’s requirements for aptitude and physical fitness through a pre-boot camp at Fort Jackson. The Army announced plans to expand the course to other U.S. Army bases, estimating the course could produce up to 12,000 new members who would not otherwise be able to enlist this year, according to Military.com.
Congratulations #FutureSoldier Pvt. Gerardo “JJ” Ceniceros for enlisting in the @USArmy as an infantryman and earning a $50,000 bonus! Ceniceros has wanted to join the Army since he was a kid and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.#ServeWithUs @TRADOC@5thRecruiting pic.twitter.com/3kQPs8TrYp
— U.S. Army Recruiting (@usarec) January 13, 2023
One of the most influential factors contributing to the Army’s recruiting troubles is a historic dearth of young people who meet the physical, medical and intellectual requirements to enlist, officials and researchers have said. Only 23% percent of individuals between the ages of 17 and 24 are qualified to serve, the Army said in July.
The pre-basic training course has solved some of those problems, Coffey said. More challenging are the social factors contributing to referring to climbing rates of obesity, drug use and sub-par educational attainment.
“That is a crisis for our society,” Coffey told the DCNF. “That has nothing to do with recruiters or the Army.”
If the recruiting pool becomes further strained or the Future Soldier Prep Course bottoms out, the risk is that the Army lowers standards, he added.
“So the army lowers standards for recruits, and then you have a poor Army in terms of capability and readiness, and it’s a vicious cycle,” Coffey said.