Wicker calls out ‘unprecedented’ military recruiting challenge
Published 9:00 am Thursday, March 23, 2023
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, participated Wednesday in a full committee hearing discussing trends in recruitment and readiness across the services and the Department of Defense.
Wicker emphasized the DOD’s focus on advancing a divisive “diversity, equity and inclusion” agenda rather than focusing on the largest recruiting crisis in the history of the all-volunteer force.
“The Department of Defense must put at least as much effort into solving the recruiting crisis as it has into other initiatives like extremism; diversity, equity and inclusion; and abortion. These initiatives are, at best, a distraction,” Wicker said. “At worst, they dissuade young people from enlisting. They suggest to the American people that the military has a problem with diversity and extremism.”
Undersecretary of the Army Hon. Gabriel O. Camarillo, Undersecretary of the Navy Hon. Erik K. Raven, and an individual performing the duties of Undersecretary of the Air Force Kristyn E. Jones all testified to the committee.
In his opening comments, Wicker said:
“Since October 1973, we have referred to the U.S. military as an all-volunteer force. (For the) past 50 years our Armed Services have been filled by recruits. And recruiting is not going well.
“The military must devote considerable resources to attract young Americans to wear the uniform … (and) maintain the high readiness standards critical to our national security.
“… today’s challenge is unprecedented … This year, if trends continue, our Armed Forces are projected to achieve roughly 75 percent of active duty recruiting goals … The three largest services will all miss their individual recruiting objectives, and the Army will miss the target for the third time in five years …
“The recruiting challenge today is complicated … A small and shrinking minority of young Americans are both qualified and interested in military service. [It] has never been especially high, but today only about 10 percent of young people consider putting on the uniform. This is the lowest rate on record.
“There are no easy solutions to this problem, but we know what does not work. Lowering recruitment standards today leads to morale, discipline and readiness problems tomorrow …
“The Department of Defense must put at least as much effort into solving the recruiting crisis as it has into other initiatives like extremism; diversity, equity and inclusion; and abortion. These initiatives are, at best, a distraction. At worst, they dissuade young people from enlisting. They suggest to the American people that the military has a problem with diversity and extremism. In truth, the military is the greatest civil rights program in the history of the world, and the data support this claim.
“… our military is more diverse than ever before … I think the evidence that is given shows that despite the good news, the military has decided to address a problem that doesn’t exist — military extremism …
“And I just wonder: Where is the same urgency of the Department of Defense when it comes to very real recruiting crisis? Where is the ‘Recruiting Strategic Plan’? Is one of those soon to be issued or to be ordered by the Department?
“… I hope we will have readiness implications at the top of our agenda rather than items that seem to be politically correct at the time.”