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Army misses annual recruitment by massive 25%; worst miss ever

Army recruits stand in formation before taking their oath of enlistment. (Jose Rodriguez, U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence)
October 03, 2022

The U.S. Army missed its 2022 recruiting goal by 15,000 troops, marking a 25 percent miss from the 60,000 new soldiers it sought to recruit before the fiscal year ended on Sept. 30. It’s the worst miss on record for the service since the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force nearly 50 years ago.

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth confirmed the recruiting miss, telling The Associated Press, “We will only achieve 75 percent of our fiscal year 22 recruiting goal.”

The 25 percent miss is even worse than the Army had predicted during the summer. In August, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville predicted the service would end the year with 10,000 less recruits than it had planned, which would have amounted to a 16 percent miss.

Despite this huge miss, Wormuth said the Army still has enough manpower to perform its critical functions, but may need to draw on the National Guard and Army Reserve to fill gaps.

‘“The Army will maintain its readiness and meet all our national security requirements,” Wormuth said. “If recruiting challenges persist, we will draw on the Guard and Reserve to augment active-duty forces, and may need to trim our force structure.”

The huge 25 percent miss for the Army comes as the entire military has struggled with recruiting in the 2022 fiscal year. While the other services all managed to meet their goals, they are already behind in the 2023 fiscal year recruiting race.

In a typical year, military recruiters are able to meet their recruiting goals and have hundreds or even thousands of prospective recruits left over, ready to ship out to basic training at the start of the next fiscal year. These prospective recruits are typically held over in a service’s delayed entry pool.

The U.S. Air Force met it’s 2022 recruiting goal of 26,151 new recruits, but had to draw heavily from its delayed entry pool, which it ideally would have been able to hold over for the next year. This means that while the Air Force hit it’s 2022 recruiting goal, it’s facing a worse starting point for 2023 recruiting than it did for 2022 recruiting.

“Using Air Force lexicon, I would say we’re doing a dead stick landing as we come into the end of fiscal ’22, and we’re going to need to turn around on the first of October and do an afterburner takeoff,” Maj. Gen. Edward Thomas, head of the Air Force Recruiting Service, said at a recruiting conference last month, the Associated Press reported.

“We’re going to be starting 2023 in a tougher position than we started 2022,” Thomas added.

According to the Associated Press, the Air Force typically has about 25 percent of its recruits ready to ship out when the recruiting race begins at the start of a given fiscal year. This year, the Air Force only has about 10 percent of its recruiting pool filled.

The Navy will also begin the 2023 fiscal year with only about 10 percent of the recruits it needs for the year.

The U.S. Marine Corps typically has about 50 percent of its recruiting goal met at the start of each fiscal year. Instead, it will have just over 30 percent of its recruiting goal for the year ready to ship out.

These recruiting challenges come as the military is trying to prepare for an era of increased competition between near-peer adversaries like China and Russia.

The recruiting challenges could continue to worsen in the coming years. In July, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin estimated that the number of Americans in the prime recruiting ages of 17 and 24 that can meet the physical, mental or moral qualifications to join the military had fallen from 29 percent to about 23 percent.

The military has tried to raise the incentives for new recruits to join, but they’ve still struggled with recruiting.

Last month, Wormuth attributed bad press to the hesitance some have shown to joining the Army. She said parents and influencers are putting more emphasis on issues of suicides and sexual harassment and assault in the military, driving this hesitance to join.

The military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate may also be harming recruiting.