- Top Army officials say the force may shrink by as many as 30,000 soldiers in the next two years.
- Officials said they are facing a "challenging recruiting environment."
- The Army has reached just 50% of its recruitment goals for 2022, with just two months left in the fiscal year
A senior US Army official told a House Armed Services subcommittee on Tuesday that the service will fall short of its planned 2022 end strength, and prospects for next year are looking even worse. Amid these challenges, the service is looking at cutting its force size.
Gen. Joseph Martin, the vice chief of staff for the Army, said the service estimates it will end this fiscal year with a total force of 466,400 — nearly 10,000 soldiers short of the expected 476,000 — and the Army could end 2023 with as few as 445,000 soldiers.
Members of the congressional subcommittee, including House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), called the possible reduction "alarming."
Martin cited "unprecedented challenges" with COVID-19 and competition with private companies as the main reason recruitment and retention levels are falling. He said that while the Army doesn't need to worry about adjusting its force structure right away, "if we don't arrest the decline that we're seeing right now in end strength, that could be a possibility in the future."
With just over two months left in this fiscal year, the Army has only reached 50% of its recruitment goal of 60,000 soldiers, a spokesperson for Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in a statement. In March, the Army lowered its annual recruiting target by 15,000 recruits.
"The Army is facing our most challenging recruiting environment since the inception of the all-volunteer force," Wormuth told the Associated Press. "We are facing a very fundamental question, do we lower standards to meet end strength or do we lower end strength to maintain a quality, professional force?"
Wormuth said the Army will prioritize quality over quantity. In January, the Army began offering maximum enlistment bonuses of $50,000 to highly skilled recruits who agree to join the force for six years.
Amid concerns over recruitment, the Army may also face losing another 20,000 soldiers, in regular and reserve forces, who have refused to get vaccinated for COVID-19, but a spokesperson for Wormuth said no decision has been made yet.