The U.S. Army is projected to fall well short of its annual recruitment goal this year, having met only a little more than half of its target for fiscal year 2022.
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told NBC News Friday that the Army has recruited only 52% of its goal for FY 2022 and is expected be short by as many as 15,000 recruits.
“We are right now at about 52% of the mission that we had originally set for ourselves. So we’ve got a ways to go, and obviously we’ve only got about a month or so until the fiscal year ends,” Wormuth said. “I would say we’re [going to be] about 12,000 to 15,000 recruits short this year.”
The current fiscal year will end on September 30. The Army had initially sought to add 60,000 active-duty enlistments this year, but has since downsized that target amid dismal recruitment shortfalls.
NBC News reports that while the Army is authorized to have as many as 485,000 total troops, it recently lowered that number to 476,000. Wormuth warned that long-term recruitment shortages could impact military readiness.
U.S. military and defense officials have said every branch of the military is facing recruitment shortfalls amid both a record low percentage of young Americans eligible to serve and even fewer willing to. In June, Pentagon officials announced that annual recruitment goals across all military branches were down 23%.
An internal Defense Department survey reported by NBC News found that only 9% of Americans eligible to serve in the military had any desire to do so, the lowest number since 2007. More than half of survey respondents (57%) said they would have emotional or psychological issues after their service. Nearly half believed they would have physical problems.
At the same time, fewer young Americans are eligible to join the military, with many being disqualified for obesity, drug use, or criminal records. Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville testified in May that only 23% of Americans ages 17-24 are qualified to serve without waivers to join, down from 29% in recent years, according to NBC News.
The military has attempted to address the shortfalls by offering more financial benefits for service and through advertising campaigns.
In May, the Army launched a recruitment campaign, "The Calling," which emphasized the branch's commitment to diversity. The first ad released for the campaign told the story of Cpl. Emma Malonelord, who was raised by a lesbian couple.
"It begins in California with a little girl raised by two moms," Malonelord narrates in the video. "Although I had a fairly typical childhood, took ballet, played violin, I also marched for equality. I like to think I've been defending freedom from an early age."
EMMA | THE CALLING | GOARMY youtu.be
The "woke" ad was harshly criticized by conservatives who said focusing on LGBT social justice issues instead of defending the country made the Army look weak.
The Army also provoked controversy in June when it announced a policy that would have permitted recruits to enlist without a high school diploma or GED. The proposal backfired, as people online mocked the military for being so desperate for recruits that officials lowered their standards. The old standards were reinstated just one week after the policy change was announced.