“We're facing, obviously, some challenging conditions in terms of our ability to recruit and attract talent,” Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo said at a press conference on Monday. Camarillo blamed the “very tight labor market” for the Army's recruitment woes. “What we're just seeing is [that] given the particular conditions of a very tight labor market, our ability to meet all of our projected recruiting goals were a little bit challenged in FY '22 and FY '23.”
Camarillo revealed that the Army's total strength, or the total number of troops, will be decreased from 485,000 troops currently to 476,000 throughout the rest of the fiscal year 2022, which will end in September. It will then go even lower to 473,000 in the fiscal year 2023. He stated that the Army has decided to reduce its recruitment goals instead of lower standards.
“We made the assessment that we would not want to adjust our specific criteria for quality,” said the official. “And so, we made the decision to just temporarily reduce end strength, as opposed to lowering our standards.” He added that the Army hoped to rebuild its strength in five years.
“We don't anticipate that it is a lasting change,” Camarillo declared. “It is something that we hope to bring back up over the course of the fight. And it's something that we certainly think is reflective of what we hope to be transient conditions in the labor market.”
Retired Army Lieutenant General Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, said the incident was unprecedented. “The Army has not faced such recruiting headwinds in the last 30 years. I am unaware of a situation where the Army has cut its end strength in response to a negative recruiting outlook.”
Spoehr also attributed the decision in part to the Biden Administration keeping the Army budget at a level that was lower than inflation. “If the Biden administration was not holding the Army's budget below the level of inflation, I am not sure they would have had to resort to cutting their end strength.”
The reduction could bring the Army to its lowest size since 1940, as per Military Times.
Spoehr stated that the Army's decision could weaken units. The Army has stated that instead of reducing the number of its units, it will instead manage groups of smaller size. Thus, with battalions and companies, rather than being manned at 95-100 percent, the Army might be in a position to fill them only at an 85-percent level with the reduction in strength. That means less capable units.
The recruitment challenges are partly a result of the Army starting to discharge those who have not complied with the Biden Administration's coronavirus vaccine requirement. More than 4,000 soldiers applied for religious exemptions; however, only two were granted the exemption, according to recent Army figures. An additional 2,735 soldiers’ requests have been rejected.
The issues are not just due to the events of the past year, when the Army launched recruiting animations that focused on minorities, immigrants, women as well as the LGBT community. Spoehr described the Army's recruitment issues as “a perfect storm, all hitting in 2022.”
From the start, he stated that fewer people were eligible to join the army. He added that the main reasons for disqualification are fitness, obesity, and mental-health problems. This shouldn't be a shock. The prevalence of obesity in America especially, among young people, is on the rise. A growing number of youth are receiving treatment for their mental-health problems and are being prescribed psychotropic medications to treat the issues. Recent figures coming from the Pentagon show that the proportion of people who are eligible to join without a waiver has decreased from 29 percent as of 2016 and is now less than 25 percent by 2022.
In addition, he stated that there are fewer and fewer people looking to join the military, partly due to the Biden Administration's bungled Afghanistan withdrawal.
There are also economic reasons behind this. A lot of businesses are now offering lucrative compensation packages, including college tuition to high school seniors. There are many job opportunities available today. In the course of time, American society has put less and less importance on the concept that public services are a necessity. The tragic withdrawal from Afghanistan has also led some to doubt our army and its competence.
He also cited the idea of the army going “woke.” “There is a sense among the American public that the military is becoming increasingly political and that topics such as race and gender equity, critical race theory, and wokeism in general are commanding more attention, at the cost of readiness.”
Public polls support these findings. This year, a Gallup poll revealed that the public's opinion of military leaders has dwindled, and a Ronald Reagan Institute poll last year revealed that confidence in the military has decreased.
Spoehr stated, “I should note that it is my assessment that for the first time ever, it may turn out that none of the military services will make their recruiting goals for 2022. The Air Force, in particular, is sounding the alarm.”