For the first time in more than 20 years, the United States Air Force is expected to miss its active-duty recruitment goals.
Secretary Frank Kendall revealed the shocking news Monday during a press conference, saying, “We’re almost to the end of the fiscal year, and the expectation is we’re going to come in short about 10%.”
“I’m overall encouraged by where we are in recruiting, but we still have a lot of work,” Kendall told Military.com. “I don’t think at the end of the day that this is going to be a fundamental constraint for national security, at least not for the Department of the Air Force.”
Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman Leslie Brown told the outlet that recruitment is expected to improve next year.
“Currently, the active duty is projected to miss [its] goal by about 10%,” Brown said. “We are cautiously optimistic though as we head into FY24. We’ve seen some positive trends such as the positive growth of our DEP [delayed-entry program], which is double what it was this time last year. It’s still lower than we want it to be, but we are continuing to see increases.”
The Air Force isn’t the only military branch struggling to find recruits. To combat decreasing enlistment rates, various branches of the U.S. armed forces have offered financial incentives.
The Army and Navy, for instance, have both provided enlistment bonuses to attract recruits. However, according to Task and Purpose, the U.S. Army is still predicted to fail to meet its recruitment goal for the second year in a row.
The Air Force is currently using financial incentives to boost recruitment, with the Air Force Reserve Command providing a $10,000 bonus for prior service enlisted airmen joining the Reserve.
The Pentagon is also reportedly preparing to implement a major change in the military’s entrance exam, which will soon allow applicants to use calculators amid the ongoing recruitment crisis.