U.S. Military Struggles To Recruit Whites

Military Recruiter
Military Recruiter | Image by cunaplus/Shutterstock

The U.S. military is seeing a significant decrease in white recruits as it continues to struggle with attracting people to serve amid national security concerns, according to a report.

This recruiting crisis has been largely driven by significant drops in white recruits, according to government data, the Daily Caller News Foundation (DCNF) reported this week. The number of minority recruits has remained steady and, in some cases, increased as the number of white people enlisting decreased.

Will Thibeau, director of the American Military Project at the Claremont Institute, said the data “reveals the decline of white recruits is almost entirely responsible for the recruiting crisis.”

“A smaller proportion of white Americans serve now than ever before. This is fundamental because complementary increases in black and Hispanic recruits have not taken place,” he told DCNF.

The Army had 25,070 new recruits in fiscal year 2023, an alarming decrease from the 44,042 new recruits that enlisted in fiscal year 2018. White recruits comprised 56.4% of the 2018 class and 44% of the 2023 class. Black recruits increased as an overall share during this period, jumping from 19.6% to 23.5%, and Hispanic recruits increased from 17.2% to 23.5%. However, each of the three demographic groups decreased over this period in terms of raw numbers.

An Army spokesperson denied that increased diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives have contributed to its recruitment struggles.

“No, the young applicants don’t care about this stuff,” an unnamed official told Military.com.

“There’s a level of prestige in parts of conservative America with service that has degraded,” the official claimed.

Other military branches have been facing similar struggles. White recruits in the Air Force dropped from 72.4% to 62.9% between 2018 and 2023 as the share of minority recruits remained steady or increased. Navy and Marine data showed a similar trend.

Other military officials did not provide explanations for the decline in white recruits.

An Air Force spokesperson said the branch’s recruitment effort “seeks to reflect the broader population to ensure a well-rounded force.”

“Factors influencing recruitment demographics can be complex and multifaceted,” the spokesperson said, per DCNF. “Additionally, recognizing that Generation Z represents the newest cohort of service members, it is essential to meet their expectations for an inclusive workplace. As we engage with youth, a fundamental principle remains steadfast — the recruitment of qualified Americans who mirror the society the Department of the Air Force serves.”

“We focus on recruiting the best and brightest of America,” a Navy spokesperson told DCNF. “Though faced with a challenging recruiting environment, the Navy has and continues to provide several opportunities to all who choose to wear the uniform, and we will continue to build pathways for all qualified individuals to serve.”

A Marine Corps spokesperson, however, denied the existence of any DEI-focused recruitment efforts in the branch.

“Marine Corps Recruiting Command does not have diversity-oriented policies. Applicants must be morally, medically, and physically qualified in order to serve,” the spokesperson told DCNF.

A Department of Defense (DOD) spokesperson acknowledged the recruitment struggles but did not address the racial dimensions of the data.

“This fiscal year was without a doubt the toughest recruitment year for the Military Services since the inception of the all-volunteer force. The Marine Corps (active and reserve components) and the Space Force are the only Services to achieve their FY recruitment goals. The Department continues to work collaboratively to develop innovative ways to inspire service and mitigate recruiting shortfalls,” the DOD said in a press release.

Some policy experts criticized the military’s DEI recruitment efforts as misguided.

“The services are prioritizing racial goals, and when you pursue racial goals and composition, you’re going to change your recruiting policy,” Robert Greenway, director of the Allison Center for National Security at the Heritage Foundation, told DCNF.

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