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U.S. Military Faces Recruiting Crisis: Understanding the Challenges

U.S. Military Recruiting Crisis

The U.S. military, which ranks second in military strength, has encountered difficulties in recruiting troops in recent years. In 2024, there will be only 1.284500 active soldiers. U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Stephanie Miller said on January 29 that the recruitment rate for the U.S. all-volunteer military has been declining over the past 15 years, with both the number of people interested in serving and the qualification rate near historical lows.

Ashish Vazirani, the acting undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, testified before Congress in December last year that “the all-volunteer military faces one of the biggest challenges since its establishment (in 1973).”

The consequences of the shrinkage of the U.S. military are serious, including the fear of inviting Chinese aggression.

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, released the “2024 U.S. Military Strength Index” report on January 24, stating that the U.S. military’s posture is in a “weak” state and the number of active members is only two-thirds of what it should be. “As observed in the 2021-2023 Index, the U.S. services have normalized reductions in the size and number of military units well below the levels required to meet criteria for two major regional conflicts.”

The agency noted, “The United States now has the smallest and oldest military in more than 80 years.” Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, the size of the U.S. military has shrunk by half, with most of the equipment designed and purchased that year.

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U.S. Republican Senator Marco Rubio published an article in “The National Interest” on the 22nd, pointing out that the next stage of the conflict between China and the United States is likely to be a military conflict: “Beijing’s goal—from seizing Taiwan to controlling the South China Sea—will make Americans completely dependent on a communist regime that hates them.”

He worries that “weak leadership, internal divisions, an inability to take decisive action, and declining troop numbers send signals of weakness and invite aggression from America’s competitors.”

Why don’t Americans join the military anymore?

U.S. Department of Defense officials usually attribute the difficulty in recruiting troops to the country’s low unemployment rate, the impact of the epidemic, and the lack of qualified recruits. Pentagon research in 2020 showed that 77% of young Americans were ineligible to serve without a waiver due to being overweight, drug addicts, or having mental or physical problems.

Vachirani said that Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012) generally has low trust in institutions; in 1995, 40% of young people (aged 16–24) whose parents had one of their parents serving in the military, but by 2012, that number dropped to 12%.

Colonel Terry Thompson was born in a small town in Arkansas. He obtained his pilot’s license as a teenager and served in the U.S. Air Force for 24 years. Two of his sons also served in the 1990s, but neither would encourage the next generation to join the military.

He told the media, “I am very passionate about flying, and the Air Force allows me to fly some of the best aircraft and equipment, make a lot of money, and be taken care of by the government. To be honest, I joined the Air Force not just out of strong patriotism. doctrine but also out of the desire to defend the motherland. But after serving for several years, I became very dedicated and loyal, loving my country like never before, and I will die for my duty to the United States.”

Thompson said that the culture and traditions of the U.S. military remain, to this day, ingrained in him. “I like the fact that the military tries to outdo the rest of society in terms of character, morals, and dedication to the country.

Today, however, I don’t believe the military is instilling this superiority in its service members and is asking everyone to be more tolerant.”, more like the rest of society, trying to be a mirror of society. But it is military exemplaryism that makes our generation love the U.S. military so much and be willing to sacrifice for it,” he said.

Thompson believed that the sole purpose of the U.S. military’s existence should be to defend and fight for the United States, not to conduct social experiments. “When we try to be a social organization, conduct social experiments, and be inclusive of all people, we will have a weak military rather than recruiting the strongest people in the field.” The

The latest Reagan Institute defense survey shows that the proportion of Americans who have a lot of confidence in the U.S. military has dropped from 70% in 2018 to 46% in 2023, due to growing perceptions of the politicization of U.S. military leadership. Many Republicans (38%) believe that the U.S. military focuses too much on social issues and neglects war, while nearly half of Democrats (47%) believe that the military is properly balancing its concerns between the two.

According to the Heritage Foundation, the U.S. Air Force selects officer applicants based on a quota system based on race and gender. In August 2023, the U.S. Army Special Operations Command released a report on “Women in Combat” that did not focus on analyzing the force’s effectiveness but instead criticized its own alleged ongoing bias. A memo from military officials last year ordered that soldiers who were undergoing a “gender transition” should not be deployed for nearly a year.

Mike Gallagher, chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Strategic Competition between the United States and the Communist Party of China, told Voice of America at an event at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) on January 23 that the U.S. military’s politicization makes recruiting more difficult: “I’m not saying the Pentagon has become ‘woke,’ which I’m uncomfortable with as a conservative. But I’m very critical of some of the Pentagon’s ‘diversity, equity, and inclusion’ (DEI) initiatives; this idea that diversity equals lethality is stupid and completely meaningless.”

However, there are also US military leaders who claim that efforts to promote racial and gender equality will not harm combat effectiveness. U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said it is important for soldiers across the Army to “feel included.” Bishop Garrison, a former senior adviser to the U.S. Secretary of Defense on human capital and diversity, equity, and inclusion issues, pointed out in 2022 that about 41% of the U.S. military are minorities and will increase, and he hopes to see the plan as a way for the US military to increase its lethality.

“The ghost of the war on terror lingers”, Veterans ask about the meaning of joining the military

Historical experience shows that if the next war breaks out, recruitment may suddenly reverse. After the terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, patriotism surged across the United States, and the number of military recruits increased by 8%. U.S. Army Special Forces “Green Beret” veteran Joe Kent pointed out at a discussion hosted by the Heritage Foundation on the 24th that after the 9-11 incident, an entire generation was inspired to combat: “When Biden put his hand on the Bible and took the oath three years ago, he inherited the most war-tested military in American history.”

Kent participated in 11 combats. His late wife, 35-year-old Navy Petty Officer Shannon Kent, was killed in an explosion during the fight against the “Islamic State” (ISIS) in 2019, leaving behind a pair of young sons. Currently, more than 7,000 U.S. soldiers have died in the war on terrorism, and 13 soldiers died during the withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Ethan Brown, a senior fellow at the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence and Global Affairs and a veteran, wrote that the specter of the War on Terror (GWOT) still lingers in recruiting offices in every town, and the American people are feeling the cost of the long war. exhausted.

The war on terrorism, which lasted for more than two decades, started vigorously and ended quietly. Kent asked, “What did we get from Afghanistan? What did we get from Iraq?”

Kent emphasized that there are major trust issues and a lack of accountability in the US military. At the same time, the American people are also questioning the goals of national security and the meaning of war. “What kind of country are we? Why should we fight other countries’ wars? We It’s our responsibility to point out clear, practical national security goals. Let’s defend America, let’s not get sucked into endless wars, and let’s eliminate all the nonsense that keeps our troops from engaging and destroying our enemies.’ “

The United States needs to take a multi-pronged approach to combat the military shortage and restore the glory of its military

. In order to increase the enlistment rate, the Pentagon has taken many measures, such as increasing enlistment bonuses, raising salaries, and launching remedial courses to help unqualified people meet the standards.

In 2023, only the Marine Corps and the Space Force of the five major U.S. services will reach their recruitment targets. Christopher Mahoney, Assistant Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, told Voice of America at an event at the Hudson Institute on January 25 that his recruiting experience lies in putting the best people into the recruiting system. He noted that the Marine Corps has an indescribable brand, and “there are practical reasons that might motivate someone to join. But when you drill down to it, they want to wear the uniform, they want to be part of a brother and sister group, and they want to fight the bad guys (do bad things to bad people).”

Asked how to compete with the Chinese Communist Party, Mahoney said that the Marine Corps is trained to locate, approach, and destroy the enemy. Within the opponent’s guardrails, I will never underestimate the Chinese PLA, Russian Battalion Battle Groups (BTG), and the fighting in the desert of the West Euphrates Valley. You have to use strength, aggression, and the level of violence that the moment calls for. To adapt to this kind of respect for opponents.”

Gallagher, who served in the Marine Corps for seven years, believes the U.S. military is particularly careful not to lower recruiting standards. “Part of what drew me to the Marine Corps was the high standards… The first time I took the physical fitness test, I was terrified of the pull-up bar, but then it became a part of my life and I loved it.”

He advised the Pentagon. Leaders need to better educate the public about the significance of joining the military. “The secretary of defense and senior leaders should actually be helping recruit recruits wherever they go, and they should be giving speeches at high schools and making broader calls to serve.”

“The future and survival of America’s all-volunteer force are at risk.” Gallagher He also expressed hope that Congress would establish a committee on the future of the all-volunteer force to discuss solutions.

U.S. Congressman Rubio suggested in an article in “The National Interest” that the U.S. Congress needs to pass more legislation to help the military depoliticize and distance itself from a “woke” culture.

Thompson, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, believes that solving the recruitment crisis requires a revival of the spiritual and moral foundation of the United States more than material incentives. The military, in particular, should become a model of the American national character: “Our country should respect and imitate the military in many aspects. Values ​​that include integrity, sacrifice and loyalty. This nation should look to the U.S. military as a shining example of what America should be. It was what it once was before there was a downward spiral of character, morals, and values.”

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