The Army will shift about $1 billion to recruiting programs and will rely more heavily on reserve units as its ranks dwindle and the service struggles to attract new soldiers, Army officials said in a memo late Wednesday that described a high-stakes “war for talent” that confronts America’s armed forces.
Army officials said the number of active-duty soldiers is expected to drop considerably over the next several years.
They said the Army’s end strength will be about 466,000 by the end of fiscal 2022. It could drop to as low as 445,000 by the end of 2023, they said, “barring a significant positive change in the current recruiting environment.”
“The United States Army exists for one purpose, to protect the nation by fighting and winning our nation’s wars as a member of the Joint Force, and our readiness depends on a quality all-volunteer force. This is not a recruiter problem. This is an Army problem,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said in the memo. “We are in a war for talent, and it will take all our people — soldiers across all components, families, Army civilians, and soldiers for life — to fight and win this war.”
Army leaders blamed a perfect storm of circumstances for the problems plaguing the service, including a shrinking percentage of young Americans fit for service and an inability to recruit in high schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students attended school virtually.
But they also blamed much deeper problems across U.S. society. Officials cited a “knowledge gap” that has prevented the Army from reaching many Americans, as well as an “identity gap” that keeps potential recruits from seeing themselves in the service or understanding its culture.
Perhaps most troubling, military leaders said they see young Americans becoming disillusioned with the armed forces, creating a “trust gap” that has proven difficult to bridge.
“Younger Americans are losing trust and confidence in many American institutions, including the military,” Ms. Wormuth and Gen. McConville said.
Their memo laid out a host of new initiatives and programs to attract fresh recruits and keep enlisted soldiers in the ranks. But officials also conceded that they’ll have to make sweeping changes to the 2023 budget in order to address looming problems.
Ms. Wormuth and Gen. McConville said they’ll shift up to $1.2 billion from other Army programs to recruiting initiatives, retention bonuses, and other efforts.
Money also will be shifted to Army reserve units, they said, “to meet operational demands” in light of the service’s manpower woes.
The Army also will launch new future soldier pilot programs, extend the service’s best recruiters, increase funding for enlistment bonuses, offer new recruits a greater voice in where they’ll be stationed, open new regional marketing offices across the country, and take a host of other steps to attract new recruits.