Yes, US has its smallest military in over 80 years as enlistment hits its lowest since 1941. Pentagon officials reported that the US military is entering 2024 with its smallest band of men in more than 80 years as it tries to bolster recruitment from Gen Z – a task officials call one of its "greatest challenges." (Generation Z – often shortened to ‘Gen Z’, colloquially known as zoomers, is the demographic cohort succeeding millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years – Wiki).
This week, Congress passed an $886 billion annual defense bill that will render total active-duty troop numbers to 1,284,500 from 1.39 million reported in 2023. This will be the thinnest the army has been since before the US entered WWll in 1941. Pentagon officials suggested there should be a "national call to service."
The reports come as the US military failed to meet recruitment targets in the Army, Navy and Air Force, only finding success in the Marine Corps and the newly established Space Force, which reached their goals.
Ashish Vazirani, the Pentagon's acting undersecretary for personnel and readiness, reported to the House Armed Services Committee that the respective services missed 2023 recruitment targets by a combined 41,000 personnel. He said: "That number understates the challenge before us as the services lowered end-strength goals in recent years, in part because of the difficult recruiting environment." Ashish added that all-volunteer force faces its biggest challenge since the 1970s inception when the draft closed.
Military recruiters have claimed to have extreme difficulties persuading Gen Zers, individuals born between 1997 and 2012, to join the army. Their "low trust in institutions" and non-traditional life and career paths have made them less inclined to serve. Additionally, they have fewer relatives who have served, making their military prospectives close to none.
About 20 years ago, 25 percent of young people never thought about enlisting in the military, officials said that figure has now exceeded 50 percent. "This has led to a disconnect between the military and a large share of society," Ashish said. "Youth of today are not saying no to what the military has to offer, they simply don't know much about military service."
"While the picture of the current recruiting environment is acutely difficult, the Defense Department and the military services are working together to resolve issues, improve processes, and expand awareness of the many opportunities military service offers."
Politicians and leaders should issue a "national call to service," according to Ashish. "Over the last 50 years the all-volunteer force has proven itself to be the best way to maintain a force capable of defending our nation," he said. "And with our combined efforts I am confident we will remain as such for the foreseeable future."
Since 2020, there have been reductions in the number of active-duty personnel in every branch except the Space Force.
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