President Joe Biden’s proposed defense budget has caused a stir as it includes a reduction in the number of active-duty soldiers requested by the US Army. The Army has requested funding for 452,000 active-duty soldiers, which is 21,000 fewer than last year’s initial request. The Army National Guard and Army Reserve will include 325,000 and 174,000 soldiers, respectively. The Army is currently facing significant challenges in recruitment, and within the next 11 weeks, they need to attract between 27,000 and 33,000 new soldiers to meet their end-strength goals. To combat this, the Army has set aside $10 billion for improving barracks and housing and has revamped its marketing strategy to attract new recruits.
The compromise version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which was approved by both the House and Senate, has caused the US Army to shrink by 33,000 soldiers, a 6% decrease in just one year. Although the Army requested the cut, it may have been due to concerns about asking for pay and benefits for soldiers they feared they would not be able to recruit. By cutting their end strength now, the Army may be able to avoid the negative publicity that accompanied its failure to meet recruitment goals last year.
However, the Army’s cut in end strength to only 452,000 soldiers limits its ability to recruit and deploy forces. The Army has previously had to lower standards to increase its size when needed, but with recruitment challenges at their worst, the Army will have less manpower and money to address the crisis. The Army will have less flexibility to deploy recruiters and smaller recruiting goals, with no incentive or ability to make up for lost ground. Attracting able-bodied men and women to the military remains a challenge.
Despite these challenges, the Army is continuing to develop and field major platforms in several categories, including robotic combat vehicles, new helicopters, futuristic mixed-reality goggles, a new rifle, and machine guns. Senior leaders aim to increase the Army’s forces back to 485,000 active-duty soldiers, with projections indicating an increase of 4,000 troops per year in the next fiscal year’s request. However, cutting the Army’s end strength to 452,000 soldiers may ultimately jeopardize US national security by limiting the Army’s ability to recruit and deploy sufficient forces. The Army is facing its most challenging recruitment obstacles in decades, and the reduction in end strength only exacerbates these issues. The Army must address its recruitment challenges quickly to ensure the country’s security.