Paper: Recruiting Crisis is National Security Threat

Paper: Recruiting Crisis is National Security Threat

Photo by: U.S. Army

The Army’s recruiting crisis, the most substantial since the creation of the all-volunteer force 50 years ago, is a threat to U.S. national security and will require a “whole-of-nation effort” to be reversed, according to the authors of a new paper published by the Association of the U.S. Army.

The Army has seen significant recruiting shortfalls for at least the past two years. In fiscal 2022, the service missed by 15,000 its goal of recruiting 60,000 new soldiers. In fiscal 2023, with an ambitious goal of recruiting 65,000 new soldiers, the Army fell short by 10,000. The current Regular Army end strength of 452,000 is “the smallest since before World War II,” the authors write.

Army senior leaders are considering significant reductions to force structure to avoid a “hollow” Army with undermanned and ineffective formations, the authors write.

In “ ’Be All You Can Be’—The U.S. Army’s Recruiting Transformation,” authors Lt. Col. Frank Dolberry, a former AUSA Army fellow, and Charles McEnany, an AUSA national security analyst, assert that because war is “fundamentally a clash of human wills,” the quality of the American soldier is critical to the nation’s ability to fight and win wars.

Among Americans ages 17 to 24, only 23% qualify to serve without a waiver due to obesity, drug use or inability to meet academic standards. Only 9% of people in this age group are even interested in serving, senior leaders have testified before Congress. There is competition from the private sector, which is offering many of the incentives offered by the military, and there are gaps in trust in institutions and in knowledge of the Army, the authors write.

Striving to overhaul the way it recruits new soldiers, Army leaders last fall announced a set of initiatives that aim to fundamentally transform the recruiting enterprise, the authors write in their paper, which is part of AUSA’s Spotlight series.

These include transitioning Army Recruiting Command from a two-star command to a three-star command; transforming how the Army prospects potential recruits; overhauling the recruiting workforce; and creating an experimentation capability.

“The Army recognizes the scope of its recruiting challenge and has taken bold steps toward overcoming it,” Dolberry and McEnany write, acknowledging that while the Army can do even more, it will take a broader effort. Many factors driving the shortfalls are “outside of the Army’s control” with no predictable end in sight, they write.

What’s clear, they say, is that the challenge “poses a risk to U.S. national security and requires a whole-of-nation effort to be reversed.”

Read the paper here.