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How We Can Fix Low Military Recruitment Numbers

By Dr. Jarrod Sadulski
Faculty Member, Criminal Justice

Over time, our military service branches have evolved and improved. Today, the military offers some of the most significant incentives in history for prospective servicemembers to join, such as:

  • Enlistment bonuses for certain programs
  • Enlisted-to-officer programs
  • Programs for servicemembers who want to attend college
  • Possible career opportunities

Despite all of these tempting incentives, overall enrollment in the military is down. NBC News notes that according to Lt. General Thomas Spoehr of the Washington, DC-based think tank The Heritage Foundation, the military has not seen such difficulty in recruiting since 1973.

Military applicants can be disqualified for several reasons, including drug use, arrest records or a lack of physical fitness. According to the Association of Defense Communities, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville told Congress that only 23% of Americans in the 17-24 age range are qualified to serve in the military without a waiver.

Strategies for Increasing Military Recruitment

According to NBC News, one reason why each military branch is now struggling to meet recruitment goals is likely due to the strong job market that the United States has experienced over the past several years. However, more companies have reduced their workforces due to economic uncertainty and the current recession. As a result, military service branches may be able to increase recruitment by emphasizing the benefits and programs available in today’s military.

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An effective military recruitment approach may also involve providing flexibility regarding possible career and education opportunities while still maintaining the high standards of who is qualified for military service. Another approach that may be equally effective in increasing recruitment efforts for the military reserves is emphasizing education incentive programs. A strong reserve force can enable different service branches to quickly increase their active-duty workforce if a national security incident or global conflict occurs.

Yet another avenue to increase recruitment is to emphasize how military training and experience can prepare servicemembers to achieve their professional goals after military service. While making military service a career is a great option, there are many great opportunities for servicemembers to develop hard and soft skills useful for the non-military workplace following a four-year enlistment.

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Recruitment efforts could focus on how the military’s training, discipline, on-the-job experience and character building could strengthen a servicemember’s resume when they seek post-service employment in the civilian job market. For example, many enlisted ratings offer technical training in a wide range of specialties, such as:

  • Machinery
  • Electronics
  • Data analysis
  • Human resources
  • Medicine
  • Food service
  • Systems administration
  • Facilities management

Benefits of Military Service

To assist military recruitment efforts, both military branches and media outlets should emphasize the benefits of serving in the military. These benefits include:

  • 30 vacation days a year
  • Excellent healthcare for servicemembers and their families
  • An allowance for housing and other costs of living
  • Family/parental leave services
  • Various education benefits for servicemembers wishing to pursue their college education while serving or after military service  

In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs offers a wide range of benefits to qualified military veterans. These benefits include educational programs, healthcare, services for transitioning to civilian employment and many other programs.

Today’s military offers robust opportunities for both personal and professional development. People who are interested in serving in the military should speak to recruiters and do their homework. Ideally, potential candidates should evaluate specific programs most likely to be beneficial in the different branches and speak to current servicemembers or veterans to gain a true understanding of what it is like to serve in the world’s best military.  

Jarrod Sadulski

Dr. Sadulski is an Associate Professor within our School of Security and Global Studies. He has over two decades in the field of criminal justice. His expertise includes training on countering human trafficking, maritime security, effective stress management in policing and narcotics trafficking trends in Latin America. Jarrod frequently conducts in-country research and consultant work in Central and South America on human trafficking and current trends in narcotics trafficking. He also has a background in business development. Jarrod can be reached through his website at for more information.

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