Army force structure changes are afoot at a time when the service is grappling with another dour recruiting year and will not hit its targets, Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers today. “We are seeing improvements in our recruiting situation… [but] the chief and I set a very ambitious goal of 65,000 new recruits this year and we are not going to make that goal,” she testified before a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “We are doing everything we can to get as close to it as possible, but we are going to fall short of that.”
Wormuth’s prediction comes five months before fiscal 2023 ends on Sept. 30. She did not disclose how far short the Army will likely be at that point or what the final end strength number may be when retainment numbers are factored in. (Service officials had previously aimed to start FY24 with 452,000 active-duty soldiers.)
Given the situation, Army leaders are looking at stopgap measures and harking back to the days when they pared back legacy weapons programs to carve out dollars for new weapon development. Yes, a form of “night court” is back, but this time the leaders are looking at “unit priority” and deciding which positions can be chopped.
“We did sort of what I would call a people night court, where we basically went and looked at all the different types of soldiers in units and said, ‘Do we need to have 60 cooks, or can we use 40 cooks?’” Wormuth explained. “We have looked at what we call unit priority and we’ve looked over the years at the units that we have used very heavily, as opposed to those that we may have used much less frequently, and those are areas where we can probably do some thinning out.”
Wormuth did not provide senators with additional details about positions on the cutting block but said, for now, the aim is not to significantly impact on any of the “major” installations. All bets are off, though, if recruiting problems persist for years to come.
“If we don’t turn our recruiting situation around, I can’t guarantee you that the Army won’t have to make some more substantial potential force structure reductions,” Wormuth warned.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville was tight-lipped today about the ongoing soldier night court process but stated that fixing the service’s recruitment problem may be the top priority for his successor once he retires in August.
“I feel very good about our senior leadership in the Army… [and] I feel really good right now about our retention,” he told reporters on April 27. “Where we are concerned is recruiting.”
From his vantage point, his successor needs to continue finding ways to expose people to options for serving in the Army and increasing the number of young adults eligible to serve, in part, through initiatives like the newer Future Soldier Prep Course that seeks to boost physical health and up entrance scores.
Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George has been tapped by the Biden administration to replace McConville, and he, too, has expressed concern over recruitment.