NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Military Recruiters Battle To Meet Quotas

September 23, 1999

Recruiters are chasing an ever-shrinking supply of high school students willing to even consider a military career. Some are even dedicating 65 hours a week to the effort; but the Army and the Air Force can't find enough people to fill the ranks.

  • The Department of Defense is seven percent behind in its recruitment goals this fiscal year -- leaving it more than 9,000 troops short.
  • The Navy came up 7,000 recruits short of its 55,000 target last year -- prompting it to accept this year a larger number of recruits who did not graduate from high school.
  • Only the Marines are meeting their relatively modest goals without too much trouble.
  • The Defense Department now spends nearly $2 billion a year recruiting about 200,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen.

It spent 11 percent less in 1989, adjusted for inflation, while signing up 40 percent more enlistees.

The reasons for the shortfall are numerous. The economy is surging and jobs are plentiful. States have spent billions building vast community college systems -- giving millions more high school graduates access to post-secondary education. Many of today's parents never served or became alienated by the Vietnam War -- leaving their children with little or no emotional connection to the military. Escalating numbers of peacekeeping missions are of uncertain duration in unattractive locales.

Source: Greg Jaffe, "The Military Wages Uphill Battle to Find the Willing and Able," Wall Street Journal, September 23, 1999.


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