Military and Defense

The US Air Force Failed To Hit A Single Recruitment Goal This Year

  • The Air Force fell short of recruiting objectives in all categories for fiscal year 2023, according to data shared with the Daily Caller News Foundation.
  • Initial estimates suggest the active duty shortfall was about 11%, while the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard fared much worse.
  • Each of the military services faced a challenging recruiting environment in 2023.

The U.S. Air Force failed to meet its recruiting targets for enlisted personnel and officers in the active duty, Reserve and National Guard components in fiscal year 2023, a spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

While the official numbers are not yet available, internal estimates from Sept. 18 suggest the Air Force achieved only 24,923, or 89%, of its goal for of 27,851 new active duty officers and enlisted troops for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, Air Force spokesperson MSgt. Deana Heitzman told the DCNF. The projected total active duty shortfall was about 11%, while the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard both missed their goals by more than 30%.

Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall said in September the service expected to miss accessions targets for the active duty component by roughly 10%, the first time the service would miss recruiting goals in more than two decades.

“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 at the time. “I’m overall encouraged by where we are in recruiting, but we still have a lot of work.”

The Air Force made about 89% of its enlisted active duty personnel goals and 98% of active duty officer goals, according to data Heitzman shared with the DCNF.

In the Air Force Reserve, the situation was much worse. The reserve component reached only 69% of its 9,300 airman goal as of Sept. 18, the data showed. In addition, the Air National Guard made only 63% of its goal to bring on 12,941 new officers and enlisted personnel.

An Air Force spokesperson told they are “cautiously optimistic” about the coming year and have seen the delayed-entry program, where high school students interested in serving can “reserve” jobs in the Air Force before heading to basic training, grow.

From the Army’s perspective at least it could take “years” for the service to overcome the current recruiting slump, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said in July.

Service chiefs continue to attribute the crisis to factors including a competitive civilian job sector and an emerging demographic of young people that is unfamiliar with military service or don’t meet the physical and academic standards of service.

However, the environment does not appear to affect all services evenly.

The Marine Corps reached its recruiting goal, Commandant Gen. Eric Smith announced on social media on Sept. 28. “I’m mindful of how challenging an environment this is and want to publicly give credit to our professional recruiters and all our Marines who uphold our rigorous standards 24/7,” Smith said.

In addition, the Space Force had obtained more than 99% of its proportionally tiny accessions goal by July, the latest month for which official numbers are available.

While the Army and Navy have not released their official count, service chiefs predicted earlier in 2023 they would not make their goals.

After falling short by about 25% of recruiting objectives in fiscal year 2022, the Army added another 5,000 recruits to its goal for 2023 for a total of 65,000 active duty officers and enlisted. As of August, however, the service was expected to miss the goal by close to 10,000 troops, Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, head of Army Recruiting Command, told

If those predictions bear out, the Army will fare better than it did in 2022.

In April, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti told the House Armed Services Committee the Navy will fall about 16%, or 6,000, recruits short of its fiscal year 2023 goal for enlisted sailors. Her written testimony put the number at 8,000 recruits.

She revised her estimate once more during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Aug. 14.

“We started out the year thinking we’d be about 13,000 short,” Franchetti said. “We’re going to be about 7,000 short. We’re doing better month by month than we were last year.”

The Navy has also followed the Army’s lead in establishing a pre-basic training camp for potential recruits who are not qualified to join. In 2023, Army’s Future Soldier Prep Course graduated 9,000 recruits who improved academic and physical fitness scores and have gone on to basic training.

Franchetti told Congress the Navy might have to consider reevaluating entrance standards “particularly in light of the small number of young Americans who are currently qualified to serve.”

Official numbers will be available in early October, Ensign Sydney Hughes, a Navy spokesperson, told the DCNF. The Army and Space Force did not respond to the DCNF by posting time.

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