The military services face the toughest recruiting environment in a generation, as the most recent data shows interest in military service at its lowest level in more than 25 years.
Internal Defense Department surveys tracking the opinions of potential recruits — mostly young men ages 16 to 21 — show the inclination toward military service has fallen dramatically since the end of the Cold War, with an exceptionally rapid nosedive since 2004.
The services continue to meet their recruiting goals, even with expanded numbers due to an increase in the size of the Army and Marine Corps, but it’s not easy. Low unemployment always means that potential recruits have a greater number of choices, and the ongoing war will, obviously, make many young people think twice about joining up.
Retention of existing personnel continues to exceed expectations, but I’ve long feared that a major drawdown in Iraq, or even an extended lull in the action, may lead to a large exodus from the military as those staying in to see the mission through or to support their buddies see an opening to get out.