Maybe the U.S. Army doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, so it’s carefully tiptoeing around the military’s biggie-sized problem: America has a young generation of fatties who are not smart enough to join the Army.
And that’s a concern as the Army faces declining enlistments and increasing early separations.
With a shortfall of more than 15,000 recruits in fiscal year 2023, the U.S. Army is challenged by a major set of recruitment and retention issues, including that recruits are not doing well on aptitude tests and a lack of physical fitness, according to an Army memo. Now, as the American job market is increasingly competitive, some recruits don’t want to serve in states that ban or limit abortions. They want to pick the state they are assigned to.
Some of the problem stems back to the Covid policies that kept young people at home for so long, the Army said, describing the government policies as “pandemic-driven constraints.”
In a July memo, the Army said: “America’s military faces the most challenging recruiting environment since the All-Volunteer Force was established in 1973, driven in part by the post-COVID labor market, intense competition with the private sector, and a declining number of young Americans interested in uniformed service. Currently, only 23 percent of 17- to 24-year-old Americans are fully qualified to serve. Pandemic-driven constraints like virtual learning have further limited access to the recruiting population in high schools and exacerbated a decline in academic and physical fitness levels. Preliminary data suggests remote schooling may have lowered overall Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) scores by as much as 9 percent. These conditions have negatively affected the Army’s ability to meet its recruiting targets.”
The Army identified broad “gaps” identified by market research as hindering young people from considering Army service:
- – Knowledge Gap. The Army’s story is not reaching enough Americans, most of whom have limited exposure to currently serving Soldiers or veterans.
- – ldentity Gap. Potential recruits cannot see themselves in the Army, often due to assumptions about Army life and culture.
- – Trust Gap. Younger Americans are losing trust and confidence in many American institutions, including the military.
The memo says the service expects to have 466,000 soldiers at the end of this fiscal year, which ends this month, and that it will lose 11,000 soldiers by next year, bringing the force total to 445,000. The Army has set a goal to retain a force of 460,000.
As part of a short-term strategy, the Army will work on several policy changes, including revising the tattoo policy. The milestones include:
- – Establish the Future Soldier Preparatory Course (FSPC) pilot program with the objective of better preparing recruits physically and academically to meet accessions standards, investing in those with a desire to serve so they can enlist in the Army without lowering quality. Expand and scale the preparatory course based on the pilot program results.
- – Extend over 420 of the Army’s best military recruiters across nationwide markets to help increase the number of potential recruits.
- – lncrease funding for targeted enlistment bonuses (up to $50,000), to include incentives for critical military occupational skill career fields.
- – Provide quick-ship bonuses ($35,000 for recruits willing to ship within 45 days)
- – Expand Station of Choice options for new recruits to provide additional opportunities to serve across the nation.
- – lmplement the former Department of the Army Selected Recruiter Mentorship Program.
- – Provide additional funding for national, regional, and local marketing in key priority population centers, including funding for recruiting events to engage with youth.
- – Establish six regional marketing offices to better support regional and local recruiting efforts.
- – Continue implementation of Know your Army and Passions marketing campaigns while focusing efforts to improve the conversion of leads to appointments and appointments to contracts.
- -lmplement the revised tattoo policy, in line with other military services, that enables more youth population to serve.
One thing new recruits won’t be able to do is to avoid serving in states where abortions are banned. The mission comes first, Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told Defense One in an interview.
“The U.S. Army will try to accommodate soldiers and recruits who want to avoid serving in states that have banned abortion, but the service’s needs come first, its top general said. In other words, you cannot enlist and refuse to serve in Oklahoma. But you can ask,” Defense One wrote.