The Air Force will miss its active duty recruiting goal for 2024 by about 10%, the first time it hasn’t met quota since 1999, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said Monday, according to Military.com.
As of July, with two months left in the fiscal year, the Air Force had achieved 19,413 new active duty recruits out of a goal of 22,660, or about 86%, according to the latest available data from the Department of Defense (DOD). The same issues that plagued the services in 2022, including lingering effects from the COVID-19 pandemic, strong private sector competition and fewer young Americans who are both eligible and interested in joining up continue to suppress recruiting, according to Military.com.
“We’re almost to the end of the fiscal year, and the expectation is we’re going to come in short about 10%,” Kendall told Military.com. “I’m overall encouraged by where we are in recruiting, but we still have a lot of work.”
The last time the Air Force came short of recruiting goals, in 1999, happened as Millennials began to reach the age of service, Military.com reported, citing Air Force Recruiting Service. A similar strain on recruiting took place in 1979 as Generation X was coming of age, according to an internal research paper from 2002.
The Air Force believes recruiting for fiscal year 2024 will produce more positive outcomes, according to Military.com.
“Currently, the active duty is projected to miss [its] goal by about 10%,” Air Force Recruiting Service spokeswoman Leslie Brown told the outlet. “We are cautiously optimistic though as we head into FY24.”
Brown said the Air Force had seen “positive trends” in the delayed-entry program, where high school students interested in serving can “reserve” jobs in the Air Force before heading to basic training.
The program is “double what it was this time last year,” Brown told Military.com.
“It’s still lower than we want it to be, but we are continuing to see increases,” she said.
She said the Air Force has filled all of its job requirements for October, kicking off the next fiscal year, and has 15 more to fill for November.
The service has tried several new ways of attracting recruits, including offering promotions and awards for airmen who convince others to join, doling out $10,000 bonuses for prior-service airmen who agree to a three-year Reserves commitment, raising body fat standards, offering up to $65,000 in college loan repayments and relaxing its tattoo policy, according to Military.com. It also rolled out a smartphone app feature allowing anyone to submit another person’s information to the Air Force recruiting office.
Mom: “Just because your friends all did it, would you?”
— Air Force Recruiting (@USAFRecruiting) August 20, 2023
Kendall said he doesn’t see recruiting problems persisting for long, according to Military.com.
“I don’t think at the end of the day that this is going to be a fundamental constraint for national security, at least not for the Department of the Air Force,” he said.
The Air Force is also slated to fall 150 pilots short of its annual training goal for 2023, although that is not a new issue, Military Times reported. In June, the Air Force announced $50,000 bonuses for experienced pilots who opt to renew their contracts.
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