Military recruitment is in trouble, with the U.S. Army missing its goal by about 10,000 new soldiers in 2023. What's causing the slowdown that has left the nation's oldest service branch in peril even as threats around the world grow?
According to a new report, the shortfall is coming from a lack of white recruits, a problem that has grown progressively worse since 2018.
The Army's recruiting of white soldiers has dropped significantly in the last half decade, according to internal data reviewed by Military.com, a decline that accounts for much of the service's historic recruitment slump that has become the subject of increasing concern for Army leadership and Capitol Hill.
The shift in demographics for incoming recruits would be irrelevant to war planners, except it coincides with an overall shortfall of about 10,000 recruits for the Army in 2023 as the service missed its target of 65,000 new soldiers...
...A total of 44,042 new Army recruits were categorized by the service as white in 2018, but that number has fallen consistently each year to a low of 25,070 in 2023, with a 6% dip from 2022 to 2023 being the most significant drop. No other demographic group has seen such a precipitous decline, though there have been ups and downs from year to year.
The Army is now having to absorb more deployments with fewer deployable soldiers, meaning those who do sign up are facing more time away from their families. In turn, that incentivizes potential recruits to look elsewhere. It's a vicious cycle of stretching what is there while creating the conditions for continued failure to hit recruiting goals.
So what's the cause of this? Well, if you believe the press, it's a combination of factors.
The rate at which white recruitment has fallen far outpaces nationwide demographic shifts, data experts and Army officials interviewed by Military.com noted. They don't see a single cause to the recruiting problem, but pointed to a confluence of issues for Army recruiting, including partisan scrutiny of the service, a growing obesity epidemic and an underfunded public education system.
Talk about putting your head in the sand. The issue is not "partisan scrutiny of the service," and it's certainly not obesity or an underfunded public education system (that is being funded at record high levels). That's not to say obesity isn't an issue overall in the military, but if it were the issue in the context of white recruitment, you'd see black recruitment dropping even further given the statistics on the matter.
The mention of "partisan scrutiny of the service" is closer to the mark, but that framing blames the response and not the actual problems that exist. It's the military equivalent of "Republicans pounce." Why are white people looking at the Army and deciding not to join when they were doing so at nearly double the rate just five years prior? One only needs to look at the changes within the military over the last several years to figure that out.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion and an obsession with intersectionalism have inundated the Army and the military as a whole. Illustrating that is current Joint Chiefs of Staff Charles Brown, who bragged that he used "diversity" as a barometer for promotions and staffing.
“I purposely build my office, my front office, and my team with [diversity], and I hire for diversity because they all bring a different perspective,” Brown said in an interview with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2020.
“All of us have to seek out those diverse candidates to bring them in, and that’s what we’re trying to do in the Air Force,” he added, appearing to convey that pursuing diverse candidates is a practice he hoped to implement through the entire Air Force.
What does that tell a potential white recruit? It tells them that they shouldn't bother signing their life away because they won't be treated fairly and will not be promoted based purely on merit and accomplishment. They simply aren't "diverse" enough, and given the Biden administration is still pumping out DEI studies claiming more bias is needed, anyone thinking about joining should know it's only going to get worse.
All of this has dire consequences for the readiness of service branches like the Army. When you start seeing recruiting shortfalls, those eventually compound as retirements escalate, causing the gap to widen. What makes this so infuriating is how preventable it is. Had the Army spent less time promoting woke ideology and more time focusing on its mission, this situation wouldn't exist. It does, though, and there won't be a turnaround until major changes are made throughout the leadership class.