. . .In April, Trump followed up on his pledge by signing a defense bill that not only ended the spending caps, but called for an increase in the military’s size in 2018 by adding 20,000 new personnel—including 7,500 more soldiers, 4,000 more sailors, 1,000 new Marines, and 4,100 more airmen.
Senior military officers, and particularly Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley, celebrated the increase. Since becoming his service’s senior officer, Milley has argued that to meet its obligations, the Army will need 540,000 soldiers in its ranks by 2022, an increase of some 70,000 soldiers over four years. “It is not some arbitrary number,” Milley told a gathering of Army veterans back in August. “We have done the analysis. We need to be bigger, and we need to be stronger and more capable.”
Milley’s goal meant that the Army not only needed to find 17,500 new soldiers every year, it needed to find replacements for those who retire or leave the service every year—about 20 percent of the force. So it is that the Army set its 2018 recruiting goal at 80,000 soldiers. Initially, at least, Milley’s target seemed modest, reachable. It wasn’t.
In April, the Army revised that number—downwards. Instead of recruiting 80,000, it announced that it would recruit 76,500 new soldiers. But even that number might be too high, as the Army notes that it’s recruited only 28,000 in the first six months of the year. The problem, it seems, isn’t that young people don’t want to join the Army—or any of the services—it’s that they can’t. And therein lies a paradox: for while the U.S. military represents the best in America (as its most senior officers claim), it doesn’t actually represent America. For that to be true, two thirds of our military would have to consist of obese, under-educated former drug users and convicted criminals.
Here’s the arithmetic: one in three potential recruits are disqualified from service because they’re overweight, one in four cannot meet minimal educational standards (a high school diploma or GED equivalent), and one in 10 have a criminal history. In plain terms, about 71 percent of 18-to-24-year-olds (the military’s target pool of potential recruits) are disqualified from the minute they enter a recruiting station: that’s 24 million out of 34 million Americans. The good news is that while the military takes pride in attracting those who are fit, educated, law abiding, and drug-free, they’re having difficulty finding them—manifestly because fewer of them actually exist. (Read more from “The Recruitment Problem the Military Doesn’t Want to Talk About” HERE)