Ever since the midway point of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, recruiters have been having a harder time making their recruiting goals. Kids have no desire to be hiking outside five miles from their bed or eating food that comes in a shelf stable bag. They don’t have any desire to spend time learning how to fire weapons or survive in the wilderness or fight off an attacking force.
Then there’s the criminally low pay and poor benefits. Even if you last 20+ years and make a career out of it, the retirement system isn’t paying as well as the private sector for the same job. The curtain that hid the pay and benefits disparity behind the guise of patriotism has fallen, and it fell hard during the pandemic.
People have become aware that the civilian IT guy is making 65K a year doing the same job as the brand new Private First Class who received the same training and is making 35K a year. The “perks” of free room and board or having free meals (that aren’t free anyway) are outweighed by the ability to be off work completely when your shift ends, to choose where you live, and what you do in your off time.
Remote work hasn’t helped this case either. For people in rural America, the military is no longer the only well-paying job available to them besides farming or working the oil fields. Thanks to remote positions and widespread high-speed internet, these recent graduates can stay in their towns with 7,487 residents and put that high salary into their local economy. They don’t have to relocate anymore.
So far this year alone the Army is short 10,000 recruits for the year. This is combined with people choosing to exit the service, or those having the choice made for them, and they have no choice but to admit they must undergo an official force reduction. You cannot sustain a high number when more people are leaving in a year than are coming in.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Joseph Martin spoke to the House Armed Services Committee on July 19th about this problem. “We’ve got unprecedented challenges with both a post-COVID-19 environment and labor market, but also competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time.” With the vaccine requirements, far too many people cannot join the Army, and even more are leaving because they refuse to get it.
The National Guard in some states is so watered down, that they could not do an effective job should they be called upon to service by their state. Without the people there to do the jobs, there is a huge problem in the hands of governors across the US, as well as for President Biden. These vaccine requirements and no longer being the only game in town is costing them dearly.
U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told The Associated Press that they are currently “facing our most challenging recruiting environment since the inception of the all-volunteer force…We are facing a very fundamental question. Do we lower standards to meet end strength, or do we lower end strength to maintain a quality, professional force? We believe the answer is obvious — quality is more important than quantity.”
Unfortunately for Wormuth, if you speak with anyone who’s ever served, quality truly matters when it comes to mission-critical things like managing a cyber network, posting guard, conducting a convoy, or patrolling an area. In those kinds of environments, you need the best people on the team.
When it comes to having someone serving the food in the field or back in the kitchens on base, pulling gate guard at the entrance to base or the PT track, a warm body is a warm body. Leadership cares not how great or capable these people are. These bodies also free up the great ones so they can excel.