The Pentagon is expanding a program to recruit migrants living legally in the United States to join the military, offering a quicker naturalization pathway in exchange for service.
Various departments of the U.S. military have been facing massive recruiting shortfalls, which have concerned policymakers and raised questions over military preparedness, especially as tensions ratchet up in Eastern Europe and the Taiwan Strait.
At an April hearing of the Congressional Armed Services Committee, Pentagon officials told Congress that the Air Force and Army estimated they would miss their 2023 recruiting goals by 10,000 soldiers and the Navy by 6,000, Spectrum News 1 reported.
The Biden Administration has responded by expanding recruitment efforts targeting permanent legal residents, colloquially known as “green card holders.” By partnering with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to offer citizenship upon the completion of basic training, the Pentagon believes it can incentivize higher recruitment from the permanent legal resident population, according to the Washington Examiner.
The Air Force rolled out the program three months ago with 14 recruits. The recruits hail from Russia, Kenya, El Salvador, Mexico, and Jamaica and have since been naturalized. Another 100 recruits from various nations are currently in basic training.
The U.S. military has had a centuries-long history of recruiting immigrants to serve. Immigrants have served in every war since the American Revolution and have proved decisive in conflicts like the American Civil War. However, immigrant recruitment fell after the Vietnam War, and the share of native-born service members increased.
However, recent political divisions and perceptions on the left and right of a politicized military may have contributed to the need to rekindle the recruitment of immigrants. A poll conducted in December 2022 found that 62% of Americans feel the military’s leadership is too political, with half citing “wokeness” as a key concern.
Perceptions of the military’s “wokeness” have been burnished by public statements from Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley supporting the teaching of critical race theory and by aggressive marketing from various military branches and units targeting people who identify as LGBT.