(NewsNation) — The U.S. military is facing a recruiting shortfall, with officials saying there are not enough people signing up to serve.
Across the board, the armed forces are experiencing a deficit of thousands of entry-level troops, according to the New York Times — a number on pace to be worse than any since shortly after the Vietnam War. Pentagon leaders said last month that ongoing military recruitment is down 23% of its annual target.
There are a number of reasons people have cited for this: the COVID-19 pandemic, a tight labor market where civilian employers are offering enticing benefits, and that fewer young people are fit enough to join the military.
“The fact that recruiters couldn’t get into high schools to be able to recruit young people, for a year, 18 months, depending on where you live in America is a huge hurdle,” Iraq War veteran Allison Jaslow said.
Compounding the problem is that although there are people who are interested in serving, they aren’t qualified to, she added.
The Pentagon said in a statement to NewsNation they are working to address the situation.
“We are thinking creatively to identify sustainable solutions that preserve our all-volunteer force in the years to come,” said acting Pentagon press secretary Todd Breasseale.
This is “a real problem for our country, for our national security, especially if we want to be a nation that still wants to serve our wars with all volunteers,” Jaslow said on NewsNation’s “Morning in America.”
A “vast” military-civilian divide is just making recruitment harder, Jaslow said.
“In previous generations, everyone had a grandfather who had served or everyone had a family member who had served. And now few people even know us. So culturally, we’re just very out of touch as a nation, with the military,” she said. “So even having sort of that sense of duty or honor model to us, I think, for us, at least for the younger generations, doesn’t really exist.”
Jaslow says she hopes these recruitment issues are just a “blip” for the military right now.
“I hope that this is just a year like many other sectors where we’re trying to recover from a pandemic,” she said. “But if we don’t, if we don’t do better next year, we should really be sounding the alarms.”