For the first since 2005, when the war in Iraq was in dire straits, the U.S. Army has failed to reach its recruiting objective. The Army leadership was seeking to add 76,500 new soldiers during the fiscal year 2018. Instead, it managed to sign up close to 70,000 recruits, thus coming 8.5 percent short of its target. According to Hank Minitrez, a spokesperson for the Army, the main reason behind the shortfall is the strong performance of the U.S. economy. Moreover, Minitrez said that there appears to be a lesser propensity in the ages of 17-24 to answer the call with only one in eight displaying the willingness.
For some military officers, however, this highlights an emerging divide between the modern-day military and the civilian population. Colonel Eric Lopez, the commanding officer of the U.S. Army 3rd Recruiting Brigade, said that although servicemen are honored to be thanked of their service, they don’t see much willingness in the population to stand beside them in the line of duty. “So, thanks for your service, right, we got that,” he said in an interview with IndyStar, “but sometimes thanks for what you do, but either I don’t want to do that or I don’t want my kids to do that.”
Willingness, however, doesn’t seem to be the only reason why the Army fails to reach its recruitment quotas. According to Army recruitment, only a scant 29 percent of eligible Americans qualify for military service. Interestingly, there appears to be a connection between the presence of a military base and joining the military. Col. Lopez says, “Places like Indianapolis, Milwaukee, there’s not a big Army base or a big military base where people can look and see and connect and go.” Whereas in other parts of the country, like Texas, California, North Carolina, where the military is ubiquitous, people are more likely to enlist just because of the consensus effect — per the consensus effect, people are more likely to pursue a certain decision if they see others doing the same.
Another reason for the recruitment difficulties could be the lack of a persuasive foreign policy. The war in Afghanistan is about to enter its 18th year. And yet, neither victory nor a beneficial and honourable conclusion are in sight. Granted, however, such considerations wouldn’t affect a 17 or 18-year-old high school senior, but more mature applicants.
The American military isn’t the only one facing recruitment problems. In the United Kingdom, the British army also failed to attract enough new candidates to reach its target strength of 82,500 soldiers. In Germany, moreover, the military has resulted in targeting underage men and women in an attempt to fill its quotas.