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Army to Address Recruiting Problems But Not With New Benefits

What would it take for you to consider joining the United States Army? Military benefits, in general, are appealing to many.

For some, the motivator is the education benefits; for others, the incentive is the ability to see the world or travel to places they otherwise wouldn’t see.

The Army, Air Force, Space Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard offer military benefits such as housing allowances, the GI Bill, TRICARE, and military life insurance. So why do the military services struggle to find recruits?

The Army Example

The Army has a recruiting problem, according to multiple sources, and at the end of 2023, the numbers fell 15 thousand troops short of a goal to bring on 65 thousand new recruits in that year.

As a result, Federal News Network reports, “Big changes are coming to the Army’s recruiting apparatus after several consecutive years of recruiting shortfalls, including an elevation of the stature of the service’s recruiting command, a new career field for military recruiters, and new goals that target a wider demographic of young people.”

Army Adjusts Expectations

The Army has struggled so much to fill the ranks that goals for 2024 were adjusted to be more realistic. At a Pentagon event in October 2023, the Secretary of the Army told reporters the Army would “settle” for something “lower than 65 thousand” for 2024 recruiting goals.

Federal News Network reports another change Army leadership hopes will help. “Considering that recruiting issues are “existential” to the Army, officials have concluded they need to raise the stature of Army Recruiting Command within the service’s organizational chart. Going forward, the command will be led by a three-star general instead of a two-star.”

Organizational Changes Won’t Change A Recruit’s Mind

Some respond to that by saying having a three-star general in charge or Army recruiting won’t do a thing to change the minds of a typical recruit who can read regular headlines in the news about mold-infested Army barracks and substandard quality of life (see below.)

Army Enlistment Bonuses

The Army official site at press time offers a $40 thousand “quick ship” bonus to new recruits. There is also a $40 thousand bonus for signing up for certain Army career fields and even a $50 thousand bonus at press time as an “active Army enlistment bonus.”

Why is the Army falling short even as it’s offering $50k to qualifying new active duty recruits? And why does the Secretary of the Army think a new set of recruiter-focused standards and options will change that equation?

Anyone who can read a webpage or a newspaper will tell you that focusing on the recruiter part of the equation is not the answer to the question, “Why are so many young Americans not joining the Army.” Why do we say this?

Related: Military Money 101

Uninhabitable Army Barracks?

Army Times reports on a “shocking” report from the Government Accountability Office listing major housing issues, including moldy barracks, overflowing sewage, and even unauthorized residents living in what is supposed to be Army housing for Army personnel and families.

“On-base privatized housing for troops with families also suffers from oversight shortcomings that have proved difficult to overcome.”

The article adds, “The Army’s internal auditors concluded that 2020 housing policy reforms intended to make homes safer from lead-based paint and asbestos fell short due to ineffective oversight and confusion between housing officials and the companies administering the properties,” according to information from the Army Times article.

In September 2023, the House Armed Services Committee held a military quality of life hearing in response to the Government Accounting Office report. Army Times reports that discussions of uninhabitable base housing and barracks are “not news” to the U.S. Army.

While it is true that some $6 billion has been budgeted to fix these issues, the talk of correcting them has gone on literally for years with little progress. Some believe the talk of such fixes is not followed up on by decisive action.

The Bottom Line

Army officials who wonder why more young Americans don’t join the military seem to forget that these potential recruits can read headlines and social media. And in 2023, those headlines had a lot to do with uninhabitable military housing.

Any potential soldier reading about substandard Army housing will likely think twice about volunteering to live in a potentially sewage-encrusted, mold-filled dorm, barracks, or base housing.

Single soldiers and married ones alike justifiably recoil in horror from such a concept, and no change in the organizational structure of Army recruiting will alter that.

Some might argue that the basic recruiting issue is more complex than that, but the question remains: Would you want YOUR son or daughter to enlist with such conditions being present at major military bases worldwide?

It’s a simple concept–give your troops a clean place to live–but the execution is far more complex. No one expects corrections to happen overnight, but they do have to happen.

Related: Military Money 101

About the author

Editor-in-Chief | + posts

Editor-in-Chief Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter/editor for Air Force Television News and the Pentagon Channel. His freelance work includes contract work for Motorola, VALoans.com, and Credit Karma. He is co-founder of Dim Art House in Springfield, Illinois, and spends his non-writing time as an abstract painter, independent publisher, and occasional filmmaker.