Do you know how significant our military recruitment crisis is? Play this “Two Truths and a Lie” game to find out. 

A. Fewer military families recommend service in the Armed Forces to their children.  

B. Big bonuses and relaxed policies drastically increased military recruitment numbers for 2023. 

C. Confidence in the U.S. military is at a two-decade low. 

A. TRUTH! Until recently, the children of service members were a predominant source for military enlistment. But in recent years, only 62.9% of military and veteran families would recommend military life, down from 74.5% in 2019. Considering the fact that the Army reported in 2019 that 79% of recruits have a family member who served, such a big drop in such a short period of time is alarming.

B. LIE! Of the five Defense Department service branches, only two met their active-duty enlisted recruiting goals for fiscal 2023—the Marine Corps and the Space Force. Both are the smallest services with the lightest recruiting requirements. The Army, Navy, and Air Force all fell short. Again. Every service—with the exception of the Marine Corps and only just barely—missed some element of its target numbers, whether from the reserve, officer quotas, or National Guard billets. 

C. TRUTH! Americans are increasingly less likely to express “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the U.S. military. The decline has persisted for the past five years. Other surveys have found even sharper declines, with American confidence plunging from 70% in 2018 to 45% in 2021. And this was before the Biden administration’s debacle in Afghanistan. 

Bottom Line: 

The world is an increasingly dangerous place. For now, warfare remains a predominantly human endeavor. It is Americans, often young Americans, who fill our ranks and operate our weapon systems.

Military recruitment deficits should not be viewed solely through an economic lens. Instead, they can be seen as a reflection of a broader societal disconnect, encompassing a lack of patriotism, love of country, and a sense of shared values. 

To learn more, read the Policy Focus on the military recruitment crisis.