The US military is falling far short of its recruitment targets with a majority of potential recruits unfit for service due to being overweight or suffering mental health problems.
The two fastest-growing barriers for army recruitment between 2013 and 2020 were mental health conditions and excess weight, leaving just 23% fit to join, a new report from the Pentagon found.
“When considering youth disqualified for one reason alone, the most prevalent disqualification rates are overweight (11%), drug and alcohol abuse (8%), and medical/physical health (7%),” the Pentagon’s Qualified Military Available Study of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 read.
Some 44% of rejected recruits were disqualified for multiple reasons rather than for only one issue.
Major Charlie Dietz, a spokesman for the US Department of Defence, said that the study confirmed the challenges of recruiting new military members.
“There are many factors that we are navigating through, such as the fact that youth are more disconnected and disinterested compared to previous generations,” he told Military.com.
“The declining veteran population and shrinking military footprint has contributed to a market that is unfamiliar with military service resulting in an over-reliance of military stereotypes.”
A Pentagon statement issued in September warned that numbers were falling far short of their targets: “The Department anticipates we will collectively miss our recruiting mission despite accessing more than 170,000 remarkable young men and women” in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30,
Stephanie Miller, deputy assistant secretary of defence for military personnel policy, told the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “This constitutes an unprecedented mission gap and is reason for concern.”
Elise Stefanik, the Republican Party representative for New York, said that recruiters’ insistence that all military personnel are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 was standing in the way of many people joining up.
“Our country must never fall behind in providing for a strong national defence,” she said, “which is why I am proud to bring an end to the Biden Administration’s authoritarian COVID vaccine mandate on our servicemen and women that has weakened our military recruitment and impaired our military ranks”.