WASHINGTON — The bipartisan, non-profit policy research organization, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, this month called the current military recruiting environment "the worst recruiting crisis since the creation of the all-volunteer force nearly 50 years ago."
Lawmakers are rightly concerned.
"Last year, the force fell tens of thousands of recruits short of its goals. And the same appears likely this year," said Sen. Jack Reed (D-Rhode Island).
"This year, if trends continue, our armed forces are projected to achieve roughly 75% of their goals," said Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi).
Civilian leaders from the individual branches told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday that the reasons are many.
"The Army is in a fierce competition for talent with the private sector. Separately, we're recovering from school closings during the pandemic, which limited recruiters' access to students and faculty alike," said Gabriel Camarillo, Undersecretary of the Army.
"The bottom line is, the Navy and Marine Corps are in a competition for talent, like many other sectors of the American economy," said Erik Raven, Undersecretary of the Navy.
"As we compete with the lowest unemployment rates in a generation, the Air Force will likely fall short of enlisted active duty recruiting goals by over ten percent. The reserve and guard are projected to miss their goals by even higher margins," said Kristyn Jones, Acting Undersecretary of the Air Force.
A Defense Department report from the fall of 2021 showed that just 9% of 16- to 24-year-olds surveyed said that they were likely to be serving in the military "in the next few years."
The panel's vice chair, Mississippi Republican Roger Wicker, placed blame on what he called "distractions."
He cited recent DOD initiatives on extremism, diversity, equity, inclusion, and abortion as examples.
Wicker argued that such issues "dissuade young people from enlisting."