As AFN reported in a story about U.S. adversaries Russia and China, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss) outlined his priorities during the 118th Congress, such as helping Taiwan prepare to defeat a future invasion from China.
In that same speech, he said the Pentagon is witnessing the worst military recruiting shortfall in 50 years. That warning mirrors a U.S. Army statement it experienced the worst recruiting year last year since it became an all-volunteer force.
When the government’s 2022 fiscal year ended October 31, the U.S. Army fell short of its recruitment goal by approximately 15,000 soldiers, or 25%, the Army Times reported last fall. That military branch was the only one to miss its target, the Times said, but the Marines, Air Force, and Navy ended the fiscal year with decent numbers because they welcomed delayed entry applicants to hit their end-of-year goals.
All of those branches were beginning the new fiscal year far behind their recruitment goals, too, the story said.
According to a Military Times article on recruiting, published last week, the Pentagon’s 2024 budget calls for 2,074,000 men and women in uniform. Military recruiters are competing with a competitive job market with single-digit unemployment and they are seeking new soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines from a small pool of young Americans who qualify to serve.
Back in his floor speech, Wicker said he will “partner” with any lawmaker to expand the population of Americans who are eligible for military service. He also suggested Congress should increase its support for Junior ROTC and ROTC programs, which are filled with high school students and college students planning on military service.
“We have long had cutting-edge technology,” Wicker said during his speech, “but our secret weapon has always been our people.”
The Republican senator also criticized the "hyperpolitical culture" in the U.S. armed forces, referring to the Biden administration's obsession with homosexual rights, transgenders and personal pronouns, and race-based equity training.
That focus, Wicker warned, "takes a sledgehammer to military readiness and recruiting."