The U.S. Army is facing difficulties finding enough recruits and hopes increased bonuses will lure them in, according to a report on Wednesday.
The Army for the first time is offering a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 to highly-skilled recruits who join for six years, the Associated Press reported. Until now, the record high was $40,000.
The head of Army’s Recruiting Command, Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, told the AP in an interview that the difficulties stem from schools shuttering during the pandemic and a competitive job market.
“We are still living the implications of 2020 and the onset of COVID, when the school systems basically shut down,” said he told the outlet. “We lost a full class of young men and women that we didn’t have contact with, face-to-face.”
But he also said some young people are taking gap years and “are making the decision that they don’t necessarily need to work right now.”
Vereen said last year’s recruiting goal was 57,500 and this year it would be about the same.
“We want to promote the value of serving your country first,” he said. “But we also know that, this generation and I guess human nature, you know, it’s all about compensation, too.”
The recruiting struggle comes as the military is poised to separate possibly tens of thousands of service members for declining to be vaccinated and defying the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate. The number of unvaccinated service members is estimated to be around 30,000. So far, the Marine Corps has separated more than 200, and the Air Force more than 20.
The Army said Wednesday it has not yet involuntarily separated anyone over the vaccine mandate, but that it has relieved six active-duty leaders from their command and issued 2,994 general officer written reprimands to soldiers over the vaccine mandate. Those reprimands are often career-ending.
More than ten thousand across the services have requested an exemption from the vaccine based on religious reasons, but so far, no religious exemption requests have been approved. More than three dozen Republican House lawmakers and nine Republican senators warned in an amicus brief last month that denying all religious exemption requests would hurt the recruitment of individuals of faith.
The recruiting difficulties also come as public confidence in the military is shrinking. A recent survey by the Ronald Reagan Institute showed a drop of 11% of Americans with high confidence in the military — just since February, as previously reported by Breitbart News. That drop was attributed to “political leadership.”
The current military leadership has also come under scrutiny from the right, after several military leaders defended the importance of service members reading books about Critical Race Theory during hearings last year. The Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, defended putting How to Be an Antiracist on his recommended reading list, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley defended learning about “white rage.”
Vereen said the total amount of available bonuses has not been set. Last year, the Army spent more than $233 million in bonuses, with about 16,500 recruits getting an average enlistment bonus of $14,000. After failing its annual recruitment goal, the Army spent more than $485 million in bonuses in 2018.
Army Brig. Gen. John Cushing, the deputy commander at Recruiting Command, told the AP that the bonuses will be concentrated in the next few months when it is really needed, versus spread out across the year.
‘It is certainly a weapon that we have in our arsenal. And I think we’ve used it effectively and I’m very confident we’ll get after it again this year,” he said.