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Military Recruitment: Improving Enlistment Strategies

It is critically important to have a fully staffed and trained military who is always ready for the call of service. According to CNBC, the Army did not reach its recruitment goal in the 2022 fiscal year by 25% or 15,000 soldiers, and it has scaled back its forecast for the 2023 fiscal year by 10,000.

The Army is not alone in missing its recruitment goals. According to CBS News, the Coast Guard reported to a congressional committee in July that it would likely to miss its recruitment target by more than 1,000 recruits.

CBS News also added that the Coast Guard missed its recruitment goals during the last four years by an average of 20% per year. Other military branches, however, were able to make their recruiting targets.

Why Is There a Military Recruitment Shortage?

There are several reasons why the military is struggling with low enrollment.

There are several reasons why the military is struggling with low enrollment. One challenge to military recruitment is the strong civilian job market. Another challenge is finding recruits who are properly qualified to enlist in the military.

Other challenges to military recruitment include age restrictions and the criminal history of recruits. Indeed says that each branch of the military has minimum and maximum age limits for recruits, and adds that certain crimes disqualify recruits from the military, while other crimes require a waiver.

Financial Incentives to Improve Military Recruitment

Recruitment challenges require innovative strategies to increase the number of enlistees. One strategy that the Navy has implemented is the use of sign-on bonuses. According to the Navy, future sailors or prior servicemembers from the Navy or another military branch may be eligible for up to $115,000. The Navy would combine the current maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 with the maximum loan repayment of $65,000.

The Coast Guard is also taking a proactive approach at increasing its recruitment. For the first time ever, the Coast Guard has offered to pay its current civilian employees, active duty servicemembers and reserve members a financial incentive of $500 if they can persuade a friend or family member  to join the Coast Guard.

According to the Coast Guard, the $500 recruitment incentive program will be in place through fiscal year 2023. Also, there is no limit on the number of referrals one can make to receive the bonus.

This program is great because actual Coast Guard servicemembers can be the best advocate for why the Coast Guard is a good choice. Other military service branches may want to consider this personal referral approach.

RELATED: Military Mentors: Helping New Recruits Adapt to Their Units

Other Strategies to Increase Military Recruitment

To encourage recruitment, potential recruits should be informed about how the military experience can support their long-term professional goals. For example, the military offers a ton of valuable training in both hard and soft skills such as teamwork and conflict resolution; this training can be highly useful after servicemembers leave the military.

Recruiters should also provide an accurate and full overview of what recruits can expect if they join the service. There are often public misconceptions of what daily life is like in the military, and recruiters can help to ease any concerns recruits may have.

Military servicemembers are also eligible for different benefits such as educational opportunities, according to Military One Source. These educational opportunities include tuition assistance and vary by branch.

RELATED: How to Ensure You Are Prepared for Military Deployments

Military Leaders Will Need to Use Innovative Thinking

While military recruitment remains an ongoing problem, it will be necessary for military leaders to try different strategies to determine which strategies prove the most successful. Ideally, military leaders and recruiters must adopt an innovation-focused mindset to raise the number of military recruits.

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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