Alarming Downturn in Military
Recruitment and Readiness
By Tracey Meck, Colonel, USAF (Ret), USAFA Class of 1987, STARRS VP Digital Media
Note: information presented here was obtained from articles linked below and personal knowledge based on previously serving as an Admissions Liaison Officer for nine years.
Disturbing trends are starting to emerge indicating that current DoD policies are setting the stage for a major decline in US military readiness. Statistics from the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Class of 2026 are a prime example.
Between the Class of 25 and 26, there was a 27% decrease in the number of US citizens who opened applications (CL25: 11,599; CL26: 8,458) and a decrease of 63.8% in qualified candidates who completed the application process and met the criteria (CL25: 3,153 and CL26: 1,141). Of these, 1,428 CL25 and 1,141 CL26 candidates were offered appointments, a 20% reduction. Of those, 1,093 and 1,071 in-processed respectively.
To be fair, some “qualified candidate” criteria were lessened for CL25 due to COVID procedures interfering with SAT and ACT testing and complications associated with on-line learning. Hence, it is prudent to compare this year’s data to pre-COVID classes. The most recent class where full information is available is CL22: applicants - 10,376; qualified candidates - 2,717; Accepted/Admitted - 1,161. Hence there was a decrease of 18.5% in applications and an 8% decrease in admitted US students (normally there are around 15 international students that add to these numbers). Looking further back, the “admitted” generally ranged between 1,150 and 1,370.
Bottom line concern: for the Class of 2026, there were more slots available than there were qualified candidates (only 1,141 qualified candidates, all offered appointments)! To compare to previous years:
CL26: Qualified Candidates: 1141; Offered: 1141; Accepted: 1,071
CL25: Qualified Candidates: 3,153; Offered: 1,428; Accepted: 1,093
CL24: Qualified Candidates: UNK; Offered: UNK; Accepted: 1,130
CL22: Qualified Candidates: 2,717; Offered: 1,434; Accepted: 1,161
CL21: Qualified Candidates: UNK; Offered: UNK; Accepted: 1,200
CL20: Qualified Candidates: 2,475; Offered: 1,492; Accepted: 1,146
CL19: Qualified Candidates: 2,528; Offered: 1,559; Accepted: 1,226
CL04: Qualified Candidates: UNK; Offered: UNK; Accepted: 1,369
USAFA is not the only part of the military facing recruiting challenges. With only three months left in the fiscal/recruiting year, as of 30 June the Army had only reached 40% of the annual recruiting goal. The other services are struggling too.
Are these recruiting problems based on schools and society in general teaching that America has been irredeemably evil and racist since its inception; that minorities are victims by virtue of their DNA-based skin pigment; that whites are inherently (and irredeemably) racist oppressors? If so, who would want to put their life on the line to serve such a reprobate country?
Other potential contributing factors include COVID mandates and the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Several recent articles discuss the issue with broader and more detailed perspectives.