Laura Ashley Powell
For the first time in 13 years, the United States Army was unable to recruit enough soldiers to meet its yearly goal, falling about 6,500 short.
What makes the gap even larger between the number of recruited soldiers and the goal for this year, is the decision by President Trump and Congress to raise the desired amount in order to expand the U.S. Military.
The Army attempted to enlist approximately 76,500 new soldiers by the end of the fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. In an attempt to meet the established goal, the Army spent 200 million dollars on bonuses as an incentive, and lowered standards to allow soldiers who previously wouldn’t have been permitted, like those with certain health problems or with behavioral issues.
Of course, there are more factors playing into fewer Americans enlisting, although a less than four percent unemployment rate is likely the largest. Some of the benefits offered by the military, like paying for a student’s college tuition, are tactics being used even by employers like McDonald’s. Right now, due to a variety of issues such as a lack of physical fitness and drug use, a staggering two-thirds of young adults are not even eligible to enlist.
Dr. Beth Asch, a senior economist at a corporation that studies military recruitment, told the New York Times that the Army has been putting more time and resources into recruiting and advertising for their branch of the military. Asch also said that more bonuses and benefits are being given to lure people to enlist, as well as hundreds more waivers for past drug use than ever before.
Despite these tactics being used to enlist more soldiers, the Army claims that the still-remaining 6,500 shortfall is evidence that they are still not settling for poor quality soldiers. Rather, they are heightening their standards despite the falling number of prospective recruits.
“As we look to 2019 and beyond, we have laid the foundation to improve recruiting for the Army while maintaining an emphasis on quality over quantity,” said Lt. Col. Emanuel L. Ortiz. “Our leaders remain confident we will achieve the Army Vision of growing the regular Army above 500,000 soldiers.”
Even if the Army is unable to close the 6,500 soldier gap, it will not make a large impact as the number is only about one percent of the entire branch. The root of the problem, the cultural and economic changes in the country causing less and less Americans to be eligible, is a problem the Army must undertake if they wish to avoid the gap growing larger every year.
This shortage is a more recent problem, as the military in previous years had been attempting to massively reduce the amount of service men and women. Between 2010 and 2016, the Army discarded more than 100,000 soldiers because of budget cuts. They were cutting down the number of recruits as well as forcing troops to leave. In 2017, the Army was on its way to shrinking down the branch to 450,000 soldiers.
President Trump, acting on his campaign promise, began to downsize the military and signed a bill to grow the Army back to 476,000. The plan for 2018 was to make bring the soldier count up to 483,500, but the numbers stayed around the 2017 goal.
The Army is the largest branch of the military, and the goals made for recruiting were twice as large as the other military branches, which all met their recruiting goals.