By Debbie Gregory.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, U.S. military recruiting offices saw a surge in their numbers. Heightened patriotism and impending war triggered some Americans to enlist. Through much of the war, a weakening economy kept recruits mustering into the ranks of the U.S. armed forces. Heavily funded recruitment campaigns easily convinced young Americans that they could create a better life in uniform than in a poor civilian job market.
When a person is interested in joining the armed forces, they visit their local recruitment office. That office arranges a series of tests and examinations at the local Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS). These tests can include medical examinations, vision and hearing tests and the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), which can factor in to what type of military job classification a recruit can be eligible for. Military branches were able to sign some of the highest scoring recruit prospects in decades.
But with the economy on the rebound, military recruiting could be in danger of seeing a decline in their quality signings. At the close of 2013, American unemployment dropped below 7%. This is the lowest the unemployment rate has been since before 2008. This could spell trouble for military recruitment.
After the 2012 high in quality for new Navy recruits, 2013 saw a dip in quality. While the Navy Recruiting Command contends that the 2013 recruits averaged well above DOD and Navy minimum standards, they see the decline as a sign to watch for further indicators.
Army recruiters are also seeing indicators that could be cause for concern. At the start of 2013, the Army had already signed up enough recruits to their Delayed Entry Program (DEP) to meet half of their annual recruiting quota. At the start of 2014, the Army’s DEP program might not even account for 1/3 of their goal.
Combined with the improved job market, military recruiters are competing against factors that disqualify potential recruits. Obesity is the number one disqualifier. But other health concerns such as asthma, previous injuries, and attention deficit disorder are disqualifying would-be recruits. Recruiters are also finding that fewer young Americans want to join the military.
With the amount of young Americans who are eligible to join the military decreasing, and the number of eligible Americans losing interest in joining the military, military recruiting could be in serious trouble.