Troop Levels Prioritize Quality over Quantity

Troop Levels Prioritize Quality over Quantity

Soldiers training
Photo by: U.S. Army/Patrick A. Albright

Facing an increasingly difficult recruiting environment, the Army is opting for quality over growing the size of the force.

“I am concerned about end strength, but I believe quality is more important than quantity,” Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville said May 12.

Testifying alongside Army Secretary Christine Wormuth before the House Armed Services Committee about the fiscal 2023 budget, McConville said the service is going to “take a pause” and “keep the quality up” as leaders look at ways to better reach America’s young men and women.

The Army’s $177.5 billion fiscal 2023 budget request includes a reduction in troop levels for the Regular Army—to 473,000, which is 12,000 fewer than authorized for fiscal 2022.

Army Reserve strength would remain at 189,500, while the Army National Guard would remain at 336,000.

McConville, who has previously said the Army should be bigger to meet all the demands placed on it, said the service must find ways to reach a larger segment of the population, adding that 83% of incoming soldiers have family members who have served.

Wormuth agreed. “One of the things we have to do is find a way to tell the Army story to as many Americans as we can,” she said. “We really need to expand our outreach to a much broader slice of America.”

The Army is doing a “deep dive” into its recruiting enterprise, Wormuth said.

This includes creating a team to “holistically assess” the service’s recruiting and accessions. Part of the challenge stems from the COVID-19 pandemic, which closed many high schools and colleges to in-person recruiters for about two years, Wormuth and McConville said.

“As pandemic conditions improve, the Army is getting its recruiters back into America’s high schools, colleges and communities,” they said. 

The Army also is looking at possibly increasing its number of junior ROTC programs across the country, Wormuth said. There are more than 1,700 today, with 25 new schools added in fiscal 2022.

Other efforts include increased incentives for new soldiers and allowing recruits to choose their first duty station. More than 2,000 new soldiers have used this benefit in fiscal 2022, Wormuth said.

She acknowledged this will be an ongoing effort. “We have a range of incentives and new marketing to help us tell the Army story more effectively, and the early returns on that are promising,” she said.