Our military recruitment is looking dreary.

Last month, SOFREP reported about the military’s challenge in recruiting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. However, based on the current trend, the numbers kept treading downwards even after the pandemic restrictions. Aside from the recruitment numbers, the US Air Force is also introducing a pay cut for its recruiters each month starting this coming October.

The Pentagon has asked Congress to reduce Special Duty Pay between $75-$450 each month until 2023, which can account for as much as $5,400 lost in annual wages. Air Force Recruiters are among those receiving this pay.

Aside from the extreme challenge of getting people in the force to train and be enlisted, this pay cut will come as a blow to recruiter morale. Recruiters work long days, including overtime and weekends, to help the US Air Force meet its goals. The overtime is covered, but this brings them back to simply covering some of the pay cuts that would be introduced soon. Not to mention, everyone is experiencing inflation (which peaked at 9% this summer).

The special duty pay is accounted for when they recruit someone with a higher degree level with the hopes of assigning them more significant responsibilities.

The Air Force Academy received 8,393 applications for the class of 2026, a 28% drop from last year. Officials note this is influenced by the pandemic, but we also have a theory that the issue could be more than that.

“A lot of schools did not allow us access to a lot of gatherings and a lot of conferences. … A lot of those things were canceled,” Col. Arthur Wayne Primas Jr., the academy’s director of admissions, told Military.com in an interview. “So we really had to shift for the class of 2026 onto a virtual platform.”

The Air Force also announced chunky enlistment bonuses of up to $50,000 to entice recruits into the more hard-to-fill technical jobs.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sarah Answine, Director of Operations 343rd Recruiting Squadron, conducts the Oath of Enlistment to five Air Force recruits in a Swearing-In Ceremony at Dew Tour in Des Moines, Iowa, July 29, 2022. Once sworn into the Air Force, the recruits became part of the Delayed Entry Program (DEP) and await their ship date for Basic Military Training. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Jessica B. Kind/Released)

“Not two years into a pandemic, and we have warning lights flashing,” Maj. Gen. Ed Thomas, Air Force Recruiting Service commander, wrote in a memo that leaked in January. “If we were a company, we would still be in the black, we would still be making a profit, but our profit margins and our available capital, those numbers are trending down right now.”

They are offering a starting $8,000 for qualified recruits who are willing to sign up and get shipped off to training right away. Jobs with even higher bonuses are offered for highly technical specialties like crypto-language analysts, computer repairs and programming, cyber security and communications.  Oddly, the biggest bonuses, in amounts of $40,000 to $50,000 are offered to those who join Air Force Special Operations careers, like Pararescueman, Tactical Air Controller, EOD, and SERE instructors.  These really shouldn’t be hard jobs to fill, as most applicants are looking at these fields are in it for the adventure of the job rather than the money.

“As we roll up our sleeves in the battle for talent, we’ve got to remain competitive as we go after our next generation of Airmen,” Thomas said in the press release. “While we’ve got an unmatched value proposition, we also have a record-high level of competition for America’s best and brightest.”

The Air Force is actively participating in mainstream media interviews to talk about their recruitment challenges. Just last Aug. 24, Lt. Col. Dan Rooney spoke with Fox News to share about the labor shortages in the military.

“We’re just in a national labor shortage right now,” Thomas said. “It’s a pitched battle for talent, really, across the country … The longer-term challenge though is more of a foundational one for us, and it’s just that less and less people are exposed to the US military and really understand who we are today.”

Meanwhile, Air Force Chief Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. also spoke at a Washington think tank to express his thoughts on the Air Force’s recruitment goals. He believes they will be able to hit them, but they’re treading on a fine line.

“We are going to end up landing on fumes,” Brown said at an event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute. “It’ll drive some challenges as we go into the fiscal year 2023 … the workforce is a bit different today than when I got in.”

So, the question is, will this recruiter pay cut help them reach their goals?