United States armed forces lack willing, able recruits
Opinion Column: Elsewhere in the World
Conflicts of recent years have brought significant negative attention to the United States Armed Forces. Attacked by media outlets from all sides, the nation’s military institutions have been berated for unnecessary use of force, failure to complete objectives and an unprecedented drag on the nation’s budget in recent years. All things considered, the various branches of the armed forces now face another significant hurdle in recruiting future soldiers.
The trend is clear: The armed forces cannot fill positions across the board. Statistics abound displaying this fact, but for the sake of brevity, the most important number to recognize is that less than 1 percent of the United States population is willing and able to serve. This is particularly interesting at a time when the military is not only scaling back its operations, but increasing benefits to personnel throughout the services. Ultimately, the reason behind the broad-based problem of failing to meet recruitment quotas comes down to the rhetoric in the statistic presented previously: only 1 percent of the population is both willing and able to serve.
However, those who are willing, and those who are able, make up two very different categories of potential military recruits. Clearly, military jobs are sought after in the current job market — after all, they pay relatively well and provide a multitude of current and future benefits as well as job security and promotion potential. The various branches of the armed forces review millions of applications per year, yet they still have a serious issue filling positions. In this regard, a significant portion of the problem comes down to the recruitment standards that have been set and maintained by the branches of the armed forces. For example, having tattoos, dependents or a criminal record could be the difference when it comes to pursuing a military career.
Putting this into perspective, the eligibility factors mentioned above hold significant weight as they pertain to military recruitment. For example, in some states — Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama — more than 70 percent of citizens aged 17 to 24 are ineligible for service in the armed forces. This is a new trend: These states are considered perennial hotbeds for military recruits and have produced a large quantity of soldiers throughout the 20th century, and into the early 21st century. Breaking down the reasons for ineligibility paints a troubling picture of young people in the United States. Even when it comes to military service, 9.5 million young Americans are already ineligible because they did not complete high school or an equivalent program. Of the contingency left, the next 7 to 8 million would be deemed ineligible due to either a failure of the physical exam, or having a criminal record.
Of the 20 million young people in the United States, only about a quarter of them would be eligible for service in the armed forces. Of this, 4 to 5 million, the vast majority is simply not willing to serve in the military, there are too many benefits elsewhere. In addition to this, service in the armed forces has become synonymous with returning to the workforce injured, whether that come in the form of mental or physical damage. Thus, where the military needs skilled and well put together individuals, they are not incentivizing their recruitment pool enough, and turning away too much potential for reasons that could be argued against as trivial.
For many college students, there is often a moment of consideration for joining the armed services. For the beneficial reasons described prior, it can be an attractive option, not to mention the appreciation and respect given by the American public to our servicemen and women. The current complexion of the armed forces, however, makes this a difficult option to consider for many. After all, we have lost thousands of American lives in the Middle East throughout the past decade. The military is and remains a dangerous occupation field, and as trends are showing, the relevant recruitment demographic has taken particularly close notice of this in recent years. But for the time being, there are very little decision-making bodies in the armed forces that can do anything other than increasing incentives and adjusting eligibility requirements.
Connor Siversky is a Rutgers Business School senior majoring in finance with a minor in math. His column, "Elsewhere in the World, " runs on alternate Wednesdays.