By Ryan Morgan
The U.S. Air Force expects to miss its goal of recruiting new active-duty personnel by about 10 percent when the fiscal year draws to a close at the end of the month.
Air Force secretary Frank Kendall has been projecting the 10 percent recruiting shortfall for months and, in a Monday interview with Military.com, said that’s still the expected outcome when the fiscal year ends on Sept. 30.
In real numbers, the Air Force sought to bring 26,877 new recruits to its active-duty component between Oct. 1, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2023.
Leslie Brown, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Recruiting Service, told NTD News that the service would likely come out about 2,700 recruits short of the fiscal year goal.
But she said those numbers were still an estimate and that the service still has one more week to ship recruits before it posts final recruiting figures for the year.
The 10 percent miss marks the first time the military service has failed to meet its active-duty recruiting quota since 1999.
Despite the shortfall, Mr. Kendall expressed some optimism in his comments with Military.com.
“I’m overall encouraged by where we are in recruiting, but we still have a lot of work.”
Mr. Kendall said the Air Force is preparing to address long-standing recruiting issues and hopes to improve matters next year.
While the Air Force missed its recruiting goal, the U.S. Space Force—which is organized under the purview of the Department of the Air Force—did manage to overshoot its recruiting quote for the 2023 fiscal year. The Space Force brought in 517 new enlisted personnel, about 110 percent of the 472 recruit goal the branch set out for at the start of the 2023 fiscal year.
The Air Force’s 10 percent recruiting miss this year comes after all military branches struggled with recruiting in fiscal year 2022.
While the Air Force met its active-duty recruiting goal in fiscal year 2022, the service acknowledged missing its goals for attracting new Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard troops.
The Navy also hit its recruiting goals for active-duty personnel last year but fell short when it came to recruiting new active and reserve officers and reserve enlisted personnel. The service recorded falling short by 209 active-duty officers, 378 reserve officers, and 1,958 reserve enlisted personnel.
The Marine Corps was the only U.S. military branch to report meeting its recruiting goals in all its categories and components last year.
It was the Army, however, that saw the largest recruiting miss in the 2022 fiscal year. The service fell about 15,000 recruits short of its 60,000 recruit goal for fiscal year 2022, a 25 percent shortfall.
Recruiting shortfalls in one year can also have a compounding effect the following year.
In a typical recruiting year, the military branches often meet their annual recruiting goal and then have a pool of potential new recruits left over in delayed-entry programs, giving them a headstart on the next year’s recruiting drive.
The Marine Corps, for example, typically has half of its recruiting numbers lined up at the start of every fiscal year just from the number of candidates held over from the previous year and kept in the service’s delayed entry program. At the start of the 2023 fiscal year, however, the Marine Corps only had about 30 percent of its recruiting quota ready in its delayed entry program.
The other military branches also had to dig into their delayed entry candidate pools at the end of the fiscal year 2022, shorting their 2023 recruiting drive to meet their 2022 goals.
“Using Air Force lexicon, I’d say we’re doing a ‘dead-stick landing’ as we come into the end of fiscal year ’22, and we’re going to have to turn around on Oct. 1 and the start of the new fiscal year and do an after-burner takeoff,” retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas said of the recruiting situation from fiscal year 2022 to 2023.
Mr. Thomas, who retired from the Air Force earlier this year, said, “We’re going to be starting 2023 in a tougher position than we started 2022.”
What’s Causing the Recruiting Challenges?
In her emailed statement to NTD News, Ms. Brown said the short-term struggle for military recruiters is contending with a national labor shortage and competitive job market.
“The battle for talent is intense,” she said.
Ms. Brown also pointed to a general sense of unfamiliarity with the U.S. military among potential recruits as another reason for the recruiting challenges the branch is facing.
The Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman said that lack of familiarity with the military could become a long-term problem. She said there is an overall declining interest in military service among today’s potential candidates.
She also said the new generation of potential military recruits also struggles with eligibility, with only about 23 percent of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 being able to serve without needing a waiver.
In November of last year, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation published its National Defense Survey results (pdf) for 2022, finding just 48 percent of respondents had “a great deal” of trust and confidence in the military, a 22-point drop since 2018. The perception that military leadership was becoming overly politicized was the leading reason respondents gave for their declining confidence in the military.
In July, Gallup pollsters reported the lowest level of confidence in the U.S. military among the U.S. public in 26 years. The Gallup pollsters found that the most significant drop in confidence in the military came from Republicans, who had historically held the highest confidence in that institution across the poll’s history.
From NTD News.