Army downsizes its forces amid unprecedented battle for recruits

The Army is dramatically reducing the total number of soldiers it plans to have in the force over the next two years, as the US military faces what a top general called ‘unprecedented challenges’ to recruit recruits.

Army officials said Tuesday that the service will be about 10,000 troops short of its planned final strength for this exercise, and the outlook for next year is bleaker. Army Gen. Joseph Martin, the army’s vice chief of staff, said he expected he would have a total force of 466,400 this year, down from a projected 476,000. And the service could end 2023 with between 445,000 and 452,000 soldiers, depending on the quality of recruitment and retention.

Just two and a half months into the exercise, the Army has only reached 50% of its recruiting goal of 60,000 troops, according to Lt. Col. Randee Farrell, spokesman for Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth. Based on these numbers and trends, it is likely that the military will miss the target by almost 25% starting October 1. If the shortcomings persist, Martin said, they could impact readiness.

“We have unprecedented challenges with both a post-COVID-19 environment and labor market, but also competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time,” Martin told a deputy. House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday. Asked if the military will need to adjust its force structure to meet national security and warfare missions around the world, Martin said, “We don’t need to do that immediately. But if we don’t arrest the decline we’re seeing right now in Endgame Strength, it could be a possibility in the future.

Reducing the size of the army is the best option, Wormuth said.

“The Army faces our toughest recruiting environment since the creation of the all-volunteer force. This is not a one year challenge. We won’t solve this overnight,” she said, adding that the service was considering a wide range of measures to recruit more soldiers without lowering standards or sacrificing quality.

“We are faced with a very fundamental question,” she added. “Are we lowering the standards to achieve end strength, or are we lowering end strength to maintain quality professional strength? We believe the answer is obvious: quality is more important than quantity.

The army’s recruiting problems are the worst in the entire army, but other services also struggle to find young people who want to enlist and who can meet the physical, mental and moral requirements.

Top Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps leaders said they hope to meet or just slightly miss their recruiting goals for this year. But they said they will have to tap into their pool of Delayed Entry candidates, which will set them back at the start of the next recruiting year.

The services recruit recruits year-round, but generally send them to basic training and boot camp over a staggered period of time. The delay can help prepare recruits for entry level training, especially the more physical demands.

Military leaders also rely on money as an incentive. They’re spending tens of thousands of dollars in increased bonuses to woo recruits, hoping to compete with other employers in the county when unemployment sits at around 3.6 percent.

In January, the Army, for the first time, began offering a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 to highly qualified recruits who enlist for six years. At the time, Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, chief of Army Recruiting Command, told The Associated Press that schools closed during the COVID-19 pandemic and the highly competitive job market posed challenges. significant challenges to recruiters.

Military services rely heavily on face-to-face encounters with young people in schools or at fairs and other major public events. And only now are they really starting to get back to something close to normal after two years of the pandemic.

Low unemployment and the fact that private companies may be able to pay more to attract workers make the problem worse. And, of the youth, only about 23% are physically, mentally and morally qualified to serve without receiving any waiver.

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