This year, the Army did not meet its recruitment target, falling short by around 10,000 individuals. This reduced number has prompted leaders to introduce substantial changes to entice and enlist new soldiers, as disclosed by top Army officials on Tuesday.
In fiscal 2023, ending on September 30, the Army secured only 55,000 contracts, missing its aim of 65,000 new members, as Army Secretary Christine Wormuth informed during a Pentagon press briefing.
This reduction is the second consecutive fiscal year the Army has missed its recruitment numbers, resulting in the smallest active-duty force since the 1940s. The active-duty troop count decreased from 485,000 in 2021 to approximately 452,000 currently.
The 2023 target was admittedly ambitious, Wormuth noted. “We aimed high, wanting to show our dedication to our recruitment staff, Congress, and the public,” she remarked.
She attributed the shortfall to factors outside the Army’s immediate influence, like a challenging job market and fewer young Americans eligible and willing to join. “These are factors that the Army cannot alter by itself,” Wormuth stated.
With the termination of the draft in 1973, the US military has been relying on volunteers. Over the past 50 years, shifts in the job market and societal perceptions of the military have emerged. Even enticing enlistment bonuses and offers to settle college debts have been inadequate to draw the youth’s attention.
Thus, the Army confronts recruitment challenges despite plans to enlarge the force. It hasn’t achieved its recruitment targets since 2014.
Wormuth mentioned, “The employment landscape has transformed in the past two decades, but our approach to it hasn’t. Meanwhile, private sectors have adapted.”
To address this, Army officials are focusing on adapting their strategies. They aim to broaden their recruitment efforts beyond just recent high school graduates. Currently, 50% of their enlistees are from this demographic, despite only 15-20% of the labor market consisting of solely high school-educated individuals.
By 2028, the Army aspires to have one-third of its enlistees be individuals who have finished high school. “We’ll still pursue high school graduates,” Wormuth clarified.
Innovative methods to attract potential recruits include large-scale career fairs in urban areas and the formation of a specialized recruitment team. Furthermore, the Army is restructuring its recruitment command, appointing a higher-ranking general to oversee it, introducing new “talent acquisition” roles, and offering recruiters enhanced training.
Wormuth highlighted the difference from the private sector, saying, “Unlike private companies, we lack a dedicated, enduring recruitment team. This policy needs to change for future success.”
These alterations are grounded in a comprehensive review of 25 years of recruitment data. While some changes will require years to execute, the hope is these adjustments will enable the Army to consistently enlist about 60,000 active-duty members annually.