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Army expects to end year with 18,000+ fewer troops than it planned

Army recruits stand in formation before taking their oath of enlistment. (Jose Rodriguez, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence)
July 21, 2022

The U.S. Army said this week it is expecting to fall short of its initial 2022 fiscal year force size goal by more than 18,000 personnel, amid military-wide recruiting struggles.

During a Tuesday hearing before the House Armed Services Committee, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin said the Army expects to have about 466,400 troops in the active component of the Army by the end of the 2022 fiscal year on Sept. 30. That number is down from the goal of 485,000 troops in the active force that the Army set at the beginning of the fiscal year under the National Defense Authorization Act of 2022.

Martin said that where the Army ends up at the end of the 2022 fiscal year will impact the service’s goals for the next fiscal year. “If we’re over under that will impact next year’s end strength as well, we’re taking that all into account.”

In April, the Army revised its fiscal year 2023 goal for the regular Army force down to 473,000 troops. During the hearing, Martin said the Army expects to have between 445,000 and 452,000 soldiers in the regular Army at the end of the 2023 fiscal year, putting the service behind its manpower goal by between 21,000 and 28,000 personnel.

During his testimony, Martin attributed the manpower shortfalls to COVID-19 and tough competition in the job market

“We’ve got unprecedented challenges with both a post-COVID-19 environment and labor market, but also private competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time,” Martin said.

During the hearing, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) called Martin’s admissions about the Army’s shrinking force size projections “alarming.”

Recruiting appears to be the major challenge for the Army’s efforts to meet its force size goals. In late June, with just over three months left in the 2022 fiscal year, the Army reported it had only hit 40 percent of its recruiting goal of 55,400 new soldiers for the year. While the Army is still far behind on its recruiting goal, the Army Human Resources Command reported on July 7 that it had already surpassed its retention goal for the year, with 57,738 reenlistments over a goal of 55,900.

“We might need to have a subsequent hearing on this because it’s pretty serious and if we need to make some changes to be able to attract more talent then we need to look more carefully at that,” Speier said as she concluded her questions for Martin.

On top of its recruiting struggles, the Army has separated 1,336 personnel for remaining unvaccinated against COVID-19. There is 19,233 personnel across all components of the Army who have outright refused the vaccine, including 1,444 personnel in the active component of the Army.