U.S. Army officials say recent drops in the number of people signing up for military service appear to be linked to traditional fears and concerns.
Government data shows the Army came up 25 percent short of its goal last year to recruit 60,000 new soldiers. But Army officials have taken several steps to try to bring recruitment numbers back up. These include the launch of newly established programs, advertising campaigns and incentives.
One incentive pays recruiters an extra $4,500 per quarter if they increase their current recruitment requirements. One program also permits young new soldiers in lower positions to get a higher position if they identify a recruit who later joins the Army.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the Army has set a goal this year to bring in 65,000 recruits. That would be 20,000 more than in 2022.
Wormuth said it is difficult to predict how that effort will go. But she added that recruiters will need to do all they can just to beat last year’s numbers. “I would say it is a stretch goal,” she said.
Guiding the Army's efforts are results of opinion studies, also called surveys, that seek to learn the reasons young people dismiss the Army as a career choice.
The studies – involving about 600 people aged 16 to 28 – were carried out last spring and summer. While the Army discussed the general results with reporters from the Associated Press, it did not provide information on the survey methods.
Officials said the survey results showed that young people simply do not see the Army as a safe place or a good career path. In addition, many young people said military service would force them to put their lives and careers on hold if they joined.
Republicans blame “wokeness”
Some American lawmakers had partly blamed the Army’s recruiting problems on the idea that “wokeness” is influencing the military. “Wokeness” is a term that began as a way to describe attentiveness to issues of racial and social justice. Some people and groups, especially conservatives, now use the word in a derogatory way to express their opposition to wokeness.
Republican Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana has said the administration of President Joe Biden's “woke” policies are “driving down military recruitment and retention.” A spokesman for Banks said a top goal for the congressman will be to fight “wokeness” at the Defense Department.
Banks and other Republican lawmakers have also expressed opposition to military efforts to target extremism, provide instruction on critical race theory and other efforts to expand diversity. Critical race theory is a way of understanding American society that places great importance on how race shaped its politics and culture.
However, the Army says that on average, only 5 percent of people involved in the study listed “wokeness” as an issue. About 13 percent said they believed women and minorities would face discrimination and not get the same chances in the Army.
Major General Alex Fink is the head of marketing for the Army. He told The Associated Press the top three reasons young people give for rejecting military service are the same across all the services. They include fear of death, worries about war-caused medical conditions and leaving friends and families – in that order. He said the Army is seeking a better understanding of any additional barriers recruits might currently see.
Fink added that a majority of young people “just don’t see the Army as something that’s relevant.”
I’m Bryan Lynn.
The Associated Press reported on this story. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English.
Words in This Story
recruit – v. try to persuade someone to work for an organization or join the military
incentive – n. something that encourages someone to act in a particular way or to take a particular action
derogatory – adj. showing strong disapproval and not respect for someone
retain – v. keep or continue something
diversity – n. a situation in which many different kinds of things or people are included in something
relevant – adj. related or useful to what is happening or being talked about
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