The US military is spending more than ever on technology to replace aging military infrastructure, from artificial intelligence to new combat machines moving 1980s tanks off the battlefield. But the US Army secretary says the nation risks falling behind in the race against China if it cannot recruit enough Americans into the service to be trained in how national defense is remade for future conflicts.
“We can develop all of the most sophisticated new weapon systems, like the ones we’re working on right now, but if we don’t have the kind of talented, motivated individuals to use those weapon systems, we won’t. we won’t be able to do it. what we need to do,” US Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at the CNBC Work Summit on Wednesday.
As the gap between the number of job vacancies and the number of job seekers has remained wide, the tight labor market has made it increasingly difficult for companies large and small to find and hire the right workers. It also impacted the US military, which as the largest branch of the US military currently has 466,400 personnel.
“We’re competing for talent, like everyone else in the industry, and the job market is hot right now,” Wormuth told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Wednesday during the CNBC event. “Wages have gone up a lot, and that’s great for Americans, but it makes it harder for us in the military to be competitive.”
The Army missed its recruitment target for fiscal year 2022 by 25% or 15,000 troops, the military service said earlier this month. In July, he also reduced his projection of his overall force size for this fiscal year by 10,000 and projected that he would likely experience another drop in 2023.
While the other branches of the military also had difficulty recruitingnone have been as pronounced as the hardships of the military, which Wormuth attributed to a variety of factors including learning losses from the pandemic and a drop in fitness standards among young Americans.
“Only about 23% of kids between 16 and 21 are able to meet our standards, and some of that, frankly, reflects the problem we have in our country with obesity,” she said, adding that behavioral health and misconduct are also factors.
A second “really difficult problem” cited by Wormuth is what the military calls the “propensity to serve”, that is, the propensity of the population to join the army and serve the country,
“Right now, only 9% of young Americans say they are interested in joining the military,” she said.
Wormuth, who became the first woman to serve as Secretary of the Army in May, said the service has already launched a variety of efforts to boost short-term recruiting. “The Future Soldier Preparation Course,” which is actually a pre-training camp that helps potential recruits improve their test scores and be more physically fit to meet army standards, is one. . This program “is very promising,” Wormuth said.
However, changing the broader propensity of Americans to serve in the military is a much longer-term challenge. A misperception that needs to be overcome concerns what military employment looks like.
“It’s going to take time to change, but I think a lot of it is about getting out there and talking better to young Americans about what the military can do for them and the incredible range of skills that they may have. access in the military,” Wormuth said. “We have over 178 military occupational specialties in the military and it’s not just infantry…we have data scientists, nurses, doctors, lawyers, paralegals, and I think we need to do a better job of explaining this to young people. Americans and their parents.”
The army must also change the way parents perceive the army and the risks it poses to children.
“We also need to do a better job of breaking down some of the misconceptions that I think exist about military service, which is understandable, you know, given that we’ve been at war, basically, for the last 20 years. said Wormuth. “In some of the survey data that we see, we see parents worrying, ‘if my child joins the military, will they automatically have PTSD? Will he be sexually harassed, for example, will he think about killing himself?’”
She pointed to the fact that the military retains soldiers “very, very well” and exceeds its retention targets, as part of spreading the message about the military as a career choice.
“I think what it shows is that when people come into the military, a lot of them want to stay in the military and they obviously wouldn’t want to stay if they had mental health issues.” , she said. “So I think we just need to talk to parents about the realities of what it means to serve in the military today.”
While recent reviews of the politicization of the army could impact the perception of joining the military, Wormuth said when speaking to soldiers around the world, “I don’t hear much about politics from them.”
“I think where that’s maybe more of a problem is with the parents maybe watching the news and kind of seeing how the military can sometimes be turned into a bit of political football, and i think the way we navigate is right to continue to emphasize to young americans, parents and other types of influencers that the military is apolitical and when you join the military you take an oath to the Constitution,” she said.
“You are not sworn to any political party. You don’t take an oath to any particular president. You take an oath to the Constitution to protect the nation,” she said.
Wormuth also weighed in on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict and the risk of nuclear conflict, saying Russian President Vladimir Putin is unlikely to follow through on threats to launch a nuclear attack. “There is a lot of concern given the way Putin has stepped up [the conflict]”, said Wormuth. “There is definitely concern.” But she said that despite Putin’s threats to use such a weapon against his former Soviet neighbor, it is “still an unlikely event”.
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US Army struggles to find the recruits it needs to win the fight of the future – Reuters
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