The United States Army will not meet its target of adding 80,000 active duty soldiers this year and has officially lowered that goal. But Army leaders say they have been able to persuade many experienced soldiers to stay in the military to satisfy a growing need for troops.
Army Sergeant Major Daniel Dailey announced this month that the new goal will be 76,500. Over the past six months, the armed forces has recruited just 28,000 new soldiers.
Dailey said the goal is to grow the Army to 483,500, as approved by Congress. It is the Army’s decision whether to add more recruits or extend the military service of current soldiers.
Daily noted that keeping current soldiers has been more successful this year than in the past. About 86 percent of current soldiers are staying on, compared with 81 percent in recent years.
Army Secretary Mark Esper said there is a difference between the number of soldiers in the Army and the demand for more troops. He noted that the “strong economy does make it challenging.” He said, however, that the Army will not sacrifice quality and its standards will not be lowered to meet recruitment goals.
The struggle to meet recruiting numbers — an increase over the goal of 69,000 last year — was expected. One reason is the strong American economy. Another is competition from business employers. They are able to pay high school and college graduates more money because of the economic growth.
Major General Jeff Snow is head of the Army’s recruiting command. He had said last year that the higher goal would be difficult to meet, considering economic conditions. He also noted the military’s need for recruits to pass physical tests that many young people are unable to complete.
It will be a “significant challenge for the command,” Snow told The Associated Press in December. Meeting the goal, he said, could force the Army to take in more recruits who would require special waivers for drug use, low test results or other health issues.
“The numbers don’t tell the whole story,” noted Dailey. He said that waivers require the Army to take a closer look at a recruit who may have had a legal problem when they were younger or has had some kind of health problem. The issue could be simple colorblindness or an arrest.
But in December, Snow said his goal for 2017 was to have fewer than 2 percent of the new recruits with low test results. Esper said that he had told the Army not to go past the 2 percent limit; currently, the Defense Department accepts up to 4 percent.
Military leaders have increasingly warned of recruiting difficulties. They say that lower unemployment rates, a strong economy, and the lowering physical abilities of young Americans have shrunk the number of people who can become recruits.
Defense officials have said that after 16 years of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, the American public is increasingly disconnected from the military. Officials say many people have misunderstandings about military service and often do not personally know any service members.
This time of year is usually the hardest for military recruiters. It is the time when high school seniors start learning if they have been admitted to colleges or universities.
I'm Susan Shand.
Lolita C. Baldor reported this story for the Associated Press. Susan Shand adapted her report for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.
Words in This Story
recruit – n. a person who has recently joined the armed forces
challenge – adj. difficult in a way that is usually interesting
standard – n. a level of quality or success that is considered acceptable or desirable
graduate – n. a person who has been recognized for completing a study program at a school, college, or university
waiver – n. the act of choosing not to use or require something that you are allowed to have or that is usually required
senior – n. a student in the year before graduating from a school