The National Guard is expected to miss its recruiting goals of 9,000 members when the fiscal year ends next week, the head of the National Guard bureau said Tuesday.
The Army National Guard will miss its target by 6,000, and the Air National Guard will have about 3,000 fewer, Gen. Dan Hokanson told reporters Tuesday.
“[Recruiters] I’ve been told almost unanimously, everywhere I go, how tough the current recruiting challenges they face are,” Hokanson said. “For many of them, it’s unprecedented in their time as recruiters.”
Some of the obstacles Hokanson cited include competition from private companies and universities, as well as the small population group that qualifies to serve. According to Hokanson, only 23% of 18-24 year olds meet the requirements to join the US military.
In addition to its short drops this year, the Army National Guard expects to be able to discharge about 14,000 Guardsmen over the next two years toaccording to Anson Smith, deputy chief of the Army National Guard’s Force Maintenance Division.
Smith said the Army National Guard has not yet discharged any Guardsmen, but anticipates a memo from the Secretary of the Army soon that will explain how casualties will be handled.
The Guard is exploring possible incentives to fix its recruitment problems in the future, including the provision of health insurance for all its members. Guardsmen receive health care through the Department of Defense when activated, but have to rely on civilian providers when not on active duty.
Hokanson said about 60,000 Guardsmen currently don’t have health coverage when they’re not activated.
“When you look generally at the fact that the National Guard doesn’t provide health insurance for people, and we’re asking them to be ready, really at any time … we really need to make sure they’re medically healthy and ready,” Hokanson told reporters on Tuesday.
Some of the other potential incentives would include expanded educational benefits and bonuses for recruiters who bring in potential recruits who complete their military training.
The Guard is not alone in its recruiting woes: Military service branches across the board, especially the Army, face challenges. A Senate Armed Services subcommittee is holding a hearing Wednesday with representatives from the other services on this issue.