The Army’s recruiting challenges this year continue as senior U.S. Army officials admitted to Congress on Tuesday that the total size of the branch’s active-duty branch will be 10,000 fewer troops than expected.
Army officials blame a tight labor market where private companies incentivize pay and the dwindling number of young people who can meet their strict eligibility standards.
The total size of the army, or “final strength”, as it is called, is achieved by keeping soldiers through retention or bringing in new soldiers through recruiting. This year’s retention rates for fiscal year 2022, ending in September, are higher than expected, but the same cannot be said for Army recruiting.
“The Army’s active duty recruitment target for FY22 is 60,000 based on the target of 476,000 strength announced in March. Col. Randee Farrell, spokesperson for Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth, said in a statement to ABC News.
In March, already facing recruitment problems, the army had reduced its annual recruiting target of 15,000 recruits.
At a House Armed Services Subcommittee hearing on Tuesday, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin acknowledged that the Army’s recruiting challenges will mean that it will be approximately 10,000 troops short of its planned final strength target.
“We think that will land at 466,400 for this year for a final strength if we hit our recruiting targets,” Martin said. “If we are above or below, that will also have an impact on next year and on the strength. We take all of that into account.”
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., cited new Army information provided to another House committee that the Army will experience an even more “dramatic” decline in fiscal year 2023.
“You now go from a final strength of 473 [thousand] to somewhere between 445,000 and 452,000, so a reduction between 21,000 and 28,000,” Speier said. “It’s alarming.
Martin confirmed Speier’s numbers and said he expects them to be higher, although it all depends on recruitment.
“I’d like to say it’s 445 to 452 [thousand] but we will get on a mission for 455 if we can get there,” Martin said. “The question is whether or not we can achieve this.
The sharp decline in recruitment is blamed on the tight post-COVID labor market and increased incentives for private companies to hire employees. The dwindling number of young Americans eligible to meet their recruiting standards also fell from 29% to 23%.
“Right now what we are going through and the why of what we think is happening right now is that 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 said.
“You’ve seen that with the various incentives that companies have provided and then what we call a decrease as a result of that, a decreasing propensity and qualifications to serve,” he added.
It remains to be seen what impact the decline in final army strength will have on readiness.
Other military branches also face recruiting challenges.
“The Department is in fierce competition for qualified, relevant and innovative talent. The job market, exacerbated by the effects of the pandemic and the military-civilian divide, creates a challenging recruiting environment,” said Gilbert Cisneros, deputy Secretary of Defense for United States Personnel and Readiness, told senators during an Armed Services Subcommittee hearing in April.