Fixing the Army’s recruiting problems will take a “whole-of-nation effort,” the authors of a new white paper believe.
The study, ‘Be All You Can Be’ – the U.S. Army’s Recruiting Transformation, explores and outlines ways the service can address the problem. The shortage of recruits is the worst since the all-volunteer force was created 50 years ago, authors Lt. Col. Frank Dolberry and Charles McEnany wrote. The Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) sponsored the project.
The authors noted that the Army missed its 2022 recruiting goal of 60,000 soldiers by 15,000, and again fell short of its 2023 goal of 65,000 new soldiers by 10,000. End strength now rests at 452,000 – the lowest since World War II – the authors wrote.
“The Army recognizes the scope of its recruiting challenge and has taken bold steps toward overcoming it,” the authors wrote, while conceding that some factors that contribute to the shortfall are “outside of the Army’s control.”
The white paper noted that while the service depends upon attracting men and women between ages 17 and 24, only about 23 percent of this pool would qualify for service without a waiver. Obesity, history of drug use and academic shortcomings are key factors in ruling out someone from enlistment. Additionally, of the pool within that age bracket, only about 9 percent are interested in serving.
The Army is addressing three specific areas that would hopefully reverse the trend:
· The “knowledge gap,” which would entail reaching out to young people who are disconnected from soldiers and veterans. Dolberry and McEnany noted that 80 percent of all soldiers now serving are related to a family member to also has worn the uniform.
· The “identity gap,” which would address and correct misconceptions about Army life and culture.
· The “trust gap,” which would reestablish lost faith and confidence in the Army as an institution.
The authors stressed the seriousness of the challenge the Army would face unless strength increases. Deterrence against Russian, Chinese, North Korean, certain Middle Eastern and other potential adversaries would be all the more difficult. The existing force would run the risk of being stretched too thinly to be able to confront acts of aggression on multiple fronts. Their families would bear the burden of prolonged deployments and increased operations tempos. The viability of the all-volunteer force itself would face a stiff challenge.
Dolberry and McEnany also acknowledged that the service has taken several steps to improve the recruiting scenario, but recognized that they might not be enough.
“While … changes have shown promising early results, the Army has realized that they were unlikely to meet the severity of the recruiting challenge on their own,” they wrote.