The Pentagon has been experiencing difficulty meeting its recruitment goals for years with several central factors contributing to the current situation.
According to a new report from the Defense Department, a steady decline in the number of military-age individuals who are fit for service has become a persistent problem.
More than three-fourths of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 are currently considered to be unfit to join the military, due in large part to the rising obesity rate.
Just under 43% of U.S. adults now meet the clinical threshold for obesity, which represents a 10-point increase since 1999.
Furthermore, the Defense Department determined that a mere 9% of those Americans who are eligible to enlist express any interest in doing so. That is the lowest percentage recorded since 2007.
Military recruitment was down in 2022. Many recruits don’t fit the physical and academic standards of the Army but the Future Solider Preparatory Course shows promise. Monday at 10, I’ll tell you about the pre-boot camp program that gets recruits ready for the ACFT @KTLA pic.twitter.com/7AobvjXPwC
— Pedro Rivera (@PedroRiveraTV) February 24, 2023
Ahead of last year’s midterm elections, Republican lawmakers vowed to address the shortage in military recruits. U.S. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) cited the obesity crisis — along with issues like the pandemic and a general disinterest in joining the military — as problems for his party to address.
“We are on the cusp of a military recruiting crisis,” he said. “When Republicans take control of Congress in a few months, averting the recruiting crisis will be a top priority of the Military Personnel Subcommittee.”
As for the reasons that eligible Americans are less inclined to sign up for military service, an Army survey found that the top three issues are, in order, fears of dying, concerns about war-related health issues, and a desire to stay close to friends and family.
In addition to mounting allegations that the military is adopting “woke” policies that are causing many would-be recruits to reconsider whether service is right for them, Republicans say that specific actions by the Biden administration could be having a negative impact on recruitment levels.
U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), an Army veteran, cited “the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, failure to deter the invasion of Ukraine, and now a lack of action to take out the Chinese spy balloon over the Pacific Ocean” as examples.
“According to a recent Heritage foundation poll, 68% of active-duty service members shared that the politicization of our military — particularly this administration’s focus on climate and gender issues as top national security priorities — would negatively impact their decision to encourage their children to join,” he added.