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US lawmakers express concern over military recruitment

It appears likely that the Army will reach just 70% of its goal and miss its year-end target by 30,000 soldiers.

WASHINGTON — For the Army, things couldn't get much worse on the recruiting front.

It appears likely that the Army will reach just 70% of its goal and miss its year-end target by 30,000 soldiers.

Among the cited reasons are the pandemic, the economy, and the strenuous requirements for recruits to get into the Army in the first place.

"Currently, only 23 percent of 17 to 24-year-old Americans are fully qualified to serve," said Lieutenant General Douglas Stitt, Army Deputy Chief of Staff.

He added: "The top disqualifiers for service are obesity, addition, conduct, test scores, medical and behavioral health conditions."

Members of the Senate Armed Services Readiness subcommittee, in a hearing Thursday, countered that other issues, such as poor military housing and sexual assault in the ranks, have contributed to the problem.

They made clear they were worried.

"By the end of 2020, the active duty U.S. military will be at its smallest size since the creation of the all-volunteer force," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).

"And, there's no sunlight on the horizon," said Sen Thom Tillis  (R-North Carolina). "It's becoming clear that the all-volunteer force that has served our country well the last 50 years is at an inflection point."

Leaders from the Navy and Air Force said their branches will meet recruiting goals for the active force, but not for the reserve component. Marine Corps leaders have said, after scaling back its branch's recruiting target, it will meet its new goal.

The National Guard is expected to miss its recruiting goals by 9,000 soldiers and airmen when the fiscal year ends next week, according to the chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Dan Hokanson.

The Virginia National Guard announced this month it is offering up to $750 to Virginia citizens who help grow the force with referrals for individuals who successfully enlist into the Virginia Army or Air National Guard.

The Deputy Chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers they could help if they'd pass a budget on time.

"Everything you can do to prevent the negative impacts of a continuing resolution will help ensure our warfighters' capability and the fulfillment of our commitment to our sailors and their families," said Vice Admiral Rick Cheeseman.

19 Republican lawmakers are blaming President Joe Biden's student-loan forgiveness plan.

In a letter, they said: "By forgiving such a wide swath of loans for borrowers, you are removing any leverage the Department of Defense maintained, as one of the fastest and easiest ways to pay for a higher education."

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