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No one is talking about the coming national defense crisis.

There is no shortage of US national defense challenges.

China continues to modernize and expand its military, routinely using its growing power to intimidate its neighbors – most recently large-scale airstrikes in Taiwan’s air defenses.

Meanwhile, President Biden has proposed a defense budget that is not even compatible with inflation and reduces the military by 5,000.

Analysts fear the United States is lagging behind in key military technologies such as hypersonic missiles, quantum computing and artificial intelligence. Furthermore, the catastrophic departure from Afghanistan has raised fears that the country could once again become a hotbed of global terrorism.

But the biggest challenge may be something no one is talking about: the Pentagon’s difficulty in attracting enough qualified volunteers to serve in the armed forces.

You would be wrong to think that it would be easy for a nation of 330 million people to attract 160,000 volunteers a year.

The military lost its recruitment target in 2018 and has struggled since then, and other services are struggling. And the problem is that recruitment will become even more difficult in the years to come, to the point where the military may continue to fail to meet its targets.

To get a sense of the difficulties in future recruitment, analysts look at trends in the population, the economy, inefficient factors, experienced influence, the future value of concessions, and public perceptions of military service.

Spoiler alert: Each of these indicators is either trending negatively or stagnating.

The key age bracket for recruitment between the ages of 18 and 24 is estimated to be permanent, which will be around 31 million by 2040, while the overall U.S. population grows, mostly in the older age group. As the United States ages, opportunities for young people will make military service less attractive.

Rising unemployment usually leads to higher recruitment success, but economists predict a gradual return to historic low unemployment, which does not provide any relief for recruitment efforts.

Exposure to veterans has been linked to a growing trend of people volunteering, but the number of veterans in the U.S. population is projected to decline by 1.7 percent annually, from 17 percent by 2030. not enough.

As far as incompetent factors are concerned, youth obesity is expected to reach 24.2% by 2030, and the rate of mental illness among young people has reached 26.3% in 2018 and is expected to increase further. This further reduces the pool of people eligible to serve in the military.

But there is more.

Public confidence in the military – usually very high – has been slipping by nine percentage points over the past decade. The withdrawal of chaos from Afghanistan will probably accelerate this trend.

Every year, more high school students go straight to college. Assuming this trend continues, fewer people will be available to join the military after high school.

Finally, one of the key incentives that encouraged individuals to join the military was the GI Bill, which provides tuition for colleges, if Congress wants to make progressive community colleges free and waive student loans. If you do, the price will go down.

So far, the Department of Defense has chosen to look at the issue through a narrow lens year after year, angrily manipulating bonuses, incentive programs and the number of recruiters to achieve annual goals while recognizing the issue. Failure is getting harder every year.

Furthermore, since each military service is expected to resolve its own issues, which is legally an all-service, national issue, progress is slow and fragmented.

Fortunately, if the United States takes this issue seriously, there are solutions. By disqualifying young people from service, rethinking existing recruitment tools, and engaging with young Americans in a more comprehensive way, we can avoid this problem and secure America’s national security. Can keep

Congress and the executive branch may choose to do nothing and wait until it is a complete crisis, or they can now begin to prepare the United States for what is increasingly dangerous and challenging. Promises the future.

۔ A retired Army lieutenant general, Thomas W. Spohr is the director of the Center for National Defense at the Heritage Foundation.

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