U.S. recruiting falls short of superpower needs

Senator Ted Cruz thinks the American military needs to be up-sized, not down-sized.

Our entire fighting force is shockingly undermanned and ill-prepared.  Last year, the Chief of Staff of the Army stated that his units were at “historically low levels” of combat readiness and the Commandant of the Marine Corps declared that “half of our non-deployed units are suffering personnel, equipment and training shortfalls.”

The Chief of Staff of the Air Force recently proclaimed that “we are getting too small to succeed.”  And, for the first time since 2007, the United States Navy was unable to maintain a carrier presence in the Arabian Gulf.  Every single portion of our Armed Forces has felt the strain.

In 2010, the U.S. Army was authorized 562,400 active duty soldiers, by the end of 2016 that number will have dropped precipitously to 475,000.

And this administration has plans to drive it even lower, to only 450,000 soldiers by the end of 2018. Unless our leaders are able to prioritize our national defense appropriately, there is a possibility that the Army could be reduced to as few as 420,000 soldiers by 2020.   Attempts to garner this “peace dividend” are assuredly met with enthusiasm by our adversaries.  [snip]

The entire end-strength of our Armed Forces must be rebuilt; we must strive to have a total active-duty force of at least 1.4 million Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines.   Anything less creates a continuing training and readiness gap that risks the lives of the men and women who volunteer to serve this great Nation.

Source: Cruz for President

Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter wants to continue to project American military power worldwide—to deal with what he terms the national security threats of terrorism, Russia, China, North Korea and Iran on a global basis.

Ted Cruz is right to point out that our armed forces are not large enough, and well-enough equipped, to carry out such a global mission.   As Andrew Bacevich, a respected military scholar, points out, it probably would take 500,000 troops each just to pacify Afghanistan and Iraq, let alone Carter’s more expansive goals.

Recruiters and potential enlistees at Fort Sill, OK

Troops and potential enlistees at Fort Sill, OK

But the problem is that U.S. military recruiters are barely able to fulfill their recruiting targets as it is.  A large proportion of enlistees are rejected because they are obese, or high school dropouts, or have criminal records.

It is impossible to increase the size of the U.S. armed forces as Cruz proposes without doing one of two things.

  •  Lower standards for recruitment.
  •  Re-institute a military draft.

The Obama administration has responded to the recruitment problem by trying to figure out ways to wage wars with minimum numbers of troops—bombings, targeted killings and plans to deploy precision tactical nuclear weapons.  Opening up the military to women and to openly gay enlistees also helps the recruitment problem, but probably not enough.

I have an alternate suggestion.

  • Limit the mission of the U.S. military to defense of the American homeland.


Why America’s All-Volunteer Force Fails to Win Wars by Andrew Bacevich for the Dallas Morning News.

The War Against the World: Washington finds enemies everywhere by Philip Giraldi.

The US military’s #1 challenge in the 21st century: Recruiting a few good people by the editor of the Fabius Maximus web site.

Will the aging and urbanization of America limit the size of our armed forces? by the editor of the Fabius Maximus web site.

The Military Could Soon Face Increased Recruiting Challenges by Brian Wagner for Task and Purpose.

U.S. presses on with ‘tactical nukes’ despite outcry by Damon Poeter for ExtremeTech.

Photo credit: Fort Sill Cannoneer.




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4 Responses to “U.S. recruiting falls short of superpower needs”

  1. williambearcat Says:

    Every , well maybe not every but one hell of a lot of them, great nation takes on imperial powers and succumb. I think we have military missions in over 160 nations.


  2. tiffany267 Says:

    I like your suggestion best.

    I believe this recurring idea that the US military is somehow too small (while pretty obviously just a fearmongering tactic) is appealing to a 20th century perspective of soldiers in trenches and the like.

    I don’t think that “boots on the ground” is how war will be waged in the 21st century.

    As you’ve pointed out before, the US military works closely with technological giants like Google. In the news we read about drone strikes and missiles. We see creepy videos of military robots.

    I just don’t think the US military plans to wage 20th century war. I believe our wars of this century will be waged with the soldiers being computer scientists and engineers, sitting in comfy offices in DC and northern Virginia, annihilating brown people all over the world without having to recruit a single overly aggressive high school dropout looking for a fight to pick.

    On a positive note, I’ve long believed that the fight against the State is a very simple one – don’t be part of the machine. Don’t enlist. Don’t work for the government, and don’t sign up for the military. Eventually if they ran out of thugs to police peaceful people, it would collapse completely. So if, as they say, recruitment levels are down, then we may be making progress. To be honest I’m skeptical that that is happening though, because even if we have fewer people signing up to be Marines carrying guns and doing typical ground warfare, there’s still millions of people working in the DoD and its shadow (tech companies, defense contractors, etc.) They are the ones we need to stop recruiting!

    Liked by 1 person

    • philebersole Says:

      Modern military technology makes it possible to for a relatively small number of people to create a lot of death and destruction.

      Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his successors thought that maximizing death and destruction was equivalent to winning wars, and therefore a large armed force was unnecessary.

      But victory in war, as Karl Clausewitz wrote, consists in imposing your will upon the enemy – making people do what you want them to do.

      You can’t do this by bombing from the air, or using flying killer robots, and sending special forces to execute people in kill lists.

      You have to do create a structure of authority.

      That is why military experts, prior to the invasion of Iraq, said it would take at least 500,000 troops to carry out a successful occupation.

      Based on the failure of 500,000 American troops to pacify South Vietnam, even those numbers may not have been enough, unless their commanders had more understanding of Iraq than they did.

      These numbers may not have been enough in any case.

      In any case, it is not possible to muster a sufficient force to carry out American imperial ambitions without (1) lowering standards to the point where the army becomes ineffective or (2) imposing a military draft, which the Amerian people probably will not accept unless the nation clearly is in peril.

      Conclusion: American imperial ambitions are unrealizable.


  3. John Pennington Says:

    Our military budget is about the same as the next dozen nations combined. We should cut the military budget in half and give up the goal of invading every third nation. Perhaps then we would gain some respect.


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