Decline of all-volunteer force endangers America

| September 19, 2022

Dr. Mark T. Esper details trends in recruiting and other factors that do not help the state of the US Military. Factors such as obesity, drug use, physical fitness, academic aptitude, etc., reduce the pool of qualified candidates. There is also a disconnect between the segment of the population who has served, or who has a family in the military, and the segment of the population who did not serve and who do not have a family member in the military.

From Fox News:

The fact is the pool of Americans aged 17-24 who are qualified and interested in serving continues to shrink. When I was secretary of the Army in 2018, 71% of these 34 million young people could not meet the military’s entry requirements due mostly to obesity, drug use, physical and mental health problems, and criminal misconduct. Four years later, that number is even higher. Further, of the 23% eligible to serve today, another 10% don’t meet the military’s academic standards. Worse, of the 3.5 million young Americans remaining, only 9% (~320,000) have a proclivity to serve. A nation of 332 million people should do better than that.

The numbers are all heading in the wrong direction, driven by broader cultural and lifestyle trends and a population unfamiliar with the less than 1% of the U.S. population in uniform that protects them. When the draft ended in 1973, most young people had a family connection to the armed forces who could explain military life and encourage service to country; today that number is far lower. Major reductions in the size of the U.S. military and in the number of bases across the country after the Cold War’s end contributed to this problem. A “knowledge gap” has grown over time due to civilians’ lack of interaction with those in uniform. This has led to an “identity gap” that inhibits many from considering a stint in the armed forces. It’s no mystery why a military caste has developed in America, with nearly 80% of today’s service members having a family member that served. All of this affects a broader set of civil-military relations with which the nation is wrestling.

The scope and scale of these trends are beyond the ability of the Pentagon to remedy. There are actions the services can and are taking, but these only address the problem at the margins. Because the ability of the military to defend the country depends directly on a sizable force of top-notch volunteers, this is a national challenge that must be addressed at the highest levels.

This means the White House and Congress must work together to reverse the underlying trends. They could begin by standing up a bipartisan commission of esteemed leaders, much like President Richard Nixon did in 1969 when he decided to end conscription. This time, rather than creating the AVF, the new panel’s mission would be to save it. As such, commissioners must focus on the key issues: increasing the pool of young people qualified to serve and raising their interest in doing so.

The rest of the opinion piece is on this link.

Category: Military issues

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AW1 Rod

“There are actions the services can and are taking…..”

Yeah…..such as lowering standards and recruiting illegal aliens, trannies, homosexuals and the HIV positive.

Brilliant strategies.


Yeah. Therein lies the problem. Muh feels. Even in the 80s when I was wearing the blue suit if I said something about my feelings I’m pretty sure I would have gotten some old Vietnam era Senior NCOs boot in my backside.


My son joined up in 2019, but he needed to get in shape. We went 5 days a week at the gym for 9 weeks before he left. He passed the PT portion without any problem, then again, he was 5’10 150 lbs. He needed a waiver because of something with his feet. He couldn’t do the “kneel-to-stand” at MEPS. 

USMCMSgt (Ret)

Booting service members for not getting the vax certainly doesn’t help.


Exactly. I don’t get that one.

USMC Steve

Easy. Socialist democrat insanity. Gotta be trendy, ya know.


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Only 9% willing to serve sounds About right. I wrote in the other post there is no real drive to serve a cause greater than themselves anymore. Given the leadership that we have had in the last 30 years, This Is understandable. Trump may have been a selfish draft dodger but at least he did not send people off to fight in another Pointless War. But simply not doing stupid things only gets you so far.


Trump was a “selfish draft dodger” huh? Slick Willie Clinton was a selfish draft dodger who gave a speech in Moscow against US involvement in Vietnam WHILE the Russians were invading Czechoslovakia. Clinton also risked a few lives in Bosnia. Of selfish draft dodgers, old W has the biggest body count, and continuing to today, Pedo Joe made as ass out of us in Afghanistan; he’s another selfish draft dodger.

If you leftists are gonna come on here and name names, name them all.


Although I am no longer a fan of GW, he was never a draft dodger. He spent over a year on active duty in OCS and flight training to become an F-102 pilot. He reportedly volunteered to fly in Vietnam, but the plan to send a unit of F-102’s was scrapped. Don’t drink Dan Blather’s fraudulent libel.


I should also add, that if GW was a draft dodger, so was I and everyone else who served in reserve components and received reserve commissions. So I “dodged” the draft by becoming a Regular Army infantry officer in 1968, at the height of the draft.


You are hilarious and yet you missed my point. Trump at least wasn’t a hypocrite. Biden, Obama and Clinton all were. Bush Jr served but he showed terrible judgment in invading Iraq.


To rgr789: my mistake. I thought GW got a deferment too.

To 5JC: whatever dude. Plus Obama didn’t receive any deferments because he was born in Kenya in 1961…didn’t need one.


The draft ended in 1972, so Obama didn’t need any deferments. Also, immigrants, green-card holders, etc. are eligible for the draft, so being born in Kenya would not have excused him.


“selfish draft dodger”

Just as there is a difference between *avoiding* taxes and *dodging* taxes there is a difference between *avoiding* the draft and *dodging* the draft. Trump *avoided* the draft by having medical deferments, just as thousands of other folks did. That’s the system, and he played by the rules.


Sure he did. After proudly marching more punishment tours than any other cadet in academy history, suddenly he couldn’t walk anymore.


A Proud Infidel®™️

Having an administration full of idiots who want to give illegal aliens more than they do those serving doesn’t help either.


Ronald Reagan’s Presidential Fitness Counsel has long since been replaced by Pedo Joe’s Hormone Replacement Therapy.

Hack Stone

Wasn’t The Presidential Physical Fitness program part of what JFK gave us, along with the space program and ten years in Viet Of The Nam?

Hack Stone

When you vilify “toxic masculinity” in America and prioritize CRT in schools and removing any academic standards for graduating, don’t be surprised when pool of people to recruit for the military is a bunch of highly medicated gender confused soy boys who can’t meet the mental and physical standards for enlisting.

And those that are physically, mentally and morally qualified take a look at today’s military and decide to take a hard pass. No way in Hell would Hack encourage anyone to enlist today.


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President Elect Toxic Deplorable Racist SAH Neande

Not to mention all the SJW “feelz” classes and requirements new to the military: use of proper pronouns, acceptance of deviants (gay, lezbians, trannies).
NOT putting proper training on the subjects that used to make us kill the enemy, break their toys, and win wars; physical fitness, weapons training, MOS training and expertise……

How could you possibly win a battle if you don’t realize that Climate Change is the biggest threat to our nations’ security?

As my favorite major (now retired colonel) used to say, “What’s that got to do with killing communists?”


You guys are right on the money. But will anyone listen? I left a message for my only vet U.S. Senator (Tammy Duckworth) and said she spit on the military by voting for the student loan boondoggle. My other senator (Durbin) is a draft-dodger who neglects the military.


Turban Durbin also showed his true colors when he fled the Capitol and DC in terror on 9/11, right after the Pentagon was hit.


I’ve been a bit of a broken record on this subject but bottom line is an effective military services priorities, needs, and culture just doesn’t work with the new woke leadership’s priorities, needs,and culture. Why would any young person who has options want to get into today’s military? We abandoned Afghanistan to the Taliban and basically turned Iraq over to Iran. Many of our veterans are years behind most of their peers in careers and earning potential. The appeal of adventure and a challenging career are now gone and replaced by a leftist indoctrination and PC culture. The kids talk to each other, they hear about what a shit show it’s become. I don’t know any veterans that want their kids joining, do any of you?
I don’t trust our leadership, political or military with my kids life, health or future, they have failed to live up to my basic expectations of leadership and I no longer feel my family has any obligation to sacrifice for their folly.

USMCMSgt (Ret)

“I don’t know any veterans who want their kids joining, do any of you?”

My answer is a resounding “NO”. My son considered joining the military, but after speaking with some of his friends (who don’t like the “woke” direction the services are heading, but are stuck until their EAS) and has observed himself the nonsense, so he’s attending aviation mechanic school.

Youngest daughter (college graduate) considered a Naval commission for nursing, but tabled that idea for all the reasons cited on this topic.


Makes me very sad. My youngest son wanted to join the Marine Corps, or possibly Army as a helicopter pilot after college. He was also interested in law enforcement, but now those paths don’t look very appealing anymore. It’s a shame because guy’s like him smart, educated, athletes were exactly what the military wanted and the type that would excel. I really want my country back. I don’t really understand how we got this screwed up.


In addition to all of the reasons already listed, add the fact that the US Military hasn’t had to really defend “America” since about 1815. US Military has bled and died in world wide political excursions in the years since then, but no real threat to the Mainland. And no, I don’t count the raid excursions during the Unpleasantness of 1861-’65. Today’s US Military will probably be ordered to surrender enmasse to the Chinese after higher tells them to. America will be defended by the Armed Patriot waiting behind every blade of grass and clump of dirt.

Live Free or Die Well.


There is no surprise here. No one with any integrity wants to give their lives (whether in service or in death) for the sake of woke fuckery.

As a parallel, vocations to the priesthood in the Catholic Church have tanked for the very same reason (and it was for that reason I left seminary).


Out of curiosity, what percentage of military life do you feel is ‘woke fuckery’ now?

Asking out of genuine interest. I get annoyed at how my current (and former) workplace seem to elevate DEIB/woke/whatever nonsense to the same level of importance as the mission… but in practice it thankfully remains a small (<5%) of my time.

So, to me, I’m still supporting a mission I’m 95% in favor of. That’s a drop of 5% from when we didn’t do this stuff, but I tend to imagine the military is a bit similar, where ‘diversity training’ involving listening to a non-binary person with made-up words for pronouns lectures you for a bit… but ultimately it’s a very tiny, albeit frustrating, part of things.

If the mission is still >90% the same, why does the 5% of stupid shit have such an outsized influence on how you perceive military service? Or are those numbers massively different now?


I think the biggest problem is that the trend shows no sign of reversing, or even just slowing down. That 5% is going to grow to 6%, then 7%, and so on. If this shit was on its way out the door, the “lay of the land” would be very different.


Got it, thanks. I can understand that perspective if you think it’s just going to keep getting worse. I tend to think it’s going to get a little worse.. then swing back the other way.

I work with a lot of very liberal people, and see some pushback already – eg, people are welcoming of whoever you are, but we don’t need another hour long lecture by someone with made-up pronouns to tell us how to think.

I hope I’m right and you’re wrong, but time will tell, I guess.


I hope it swings back but I’m not holding my breath. This country has changed fundamentally and not for the better. What was right is now wrong, what was wrong is ok. I don’t think our future is too bright unless we experience a sea change in popular culture. And right now our culture is a cesspool.


Even my father, a pacifist and conscientious objector who has surprisingly traditional notions about military service, turns into COL “Bat” Guano when he hears about sh*t like that:
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Seriously– he’s in his 70s, owns a gun and says things like Trump does nowadays, but won’t believe it when i tell him he’s a Republican now.

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What is gonna kill the US Military as a whole is the generation like mine: 2nd generation + of service, some careerists/some not who flat out just dont push/advise/guide OUR children towards continuing the family lineage. I was 3rd consecutive generation of service (WWII, Vietnam, AFG), 2nd generation careerist (father/uncle retired 20 year Marines). I retired in 2017 and the family line STOPS with me. Every generation says ‘this isn’t the service that I joined’. It really isnt: when you got GOOD servicemembers being forced out due to BS, it doesn’t make someone like me want to suggest it as a viable means of a career.


Me, 1972 High school senior, enlisted Army 4 years Infantry 11B for $1200 bonus/Jump School/101st ABN. Served 2 years 101st then 2 years Berlin Brigade followed by 4 years recruiting duty in Chicago (2 years on the street and 2 years as a Guidance Counselor “closing the sale” at Chicago MEPS). #1 reason for soldiers enlisting was to get bonus / money help for college after serving with #2 for a skill/possibility for a career.

Followed this by 14 years As a Retention NCO (3ID/10th Mtn (LI)/ 2ID/7thID (LI)/I Corps). Bonus money and/or relocation (+for those married) were the major decision factors for reenlisting.

I retired at 24 years (E8 Retention Control Point at the time). Followed that with 20 years USPS night shift processing mail.


“#1 reason for soldiers enlisting was to get bonus / money help for college after serving with #2 for a skill/possibility for a career. ”

How dare you impugn the motives of our unblemished heroes!?!?
But…but…but I thought all service members were solely motivated by patriotism, sacrifice, and love of country!

I am shocked! Shocked that selfish mercenary motives are involved!

I have been repeatedly (and sometimes heatedly) assured on this and other sites that mercenary motives are never, never, never involved in the decision to serve.


I joined in college via ROTC because I wanted a career as a professional soldier/infantry officer. I finished my career as a Special Forces officer. I resigned my RA commission because I was disillusioned with what the Army had become after Vietnam, but I served several more years in reserve component Special Forces and Psyop units. I am still a fan of real professional soldiering and the military. But the Progs/D-rats are hell bent on destroying ours.

BlueCord Dad

My son went Army ROTC from Rutgers. He was 10 when the Towers came down. He wanted to serve from then on. He was a state champion HS swimmer. ze When he graduated HS, he had a Congressional appointment to USNA. The academic board took one look at his math scores and said no way he could hack the Engineering track.He appealed saying he wanted Political Science. No dice. Luckily I had him apply for Army and Navy ROTC. Navy didn’t work out for the same reason USNA didn’t fly. Army ROTC snatched him up in a heart beat. Commissioned in 2013 as an Infantry officer and served 7 yrs 9 mos AD. Got out as a Captain. Currently working on a Masters in Nursing


I served almost six years AD; had orders for the infantry career course. With nothing on the horizon but years as a staff officer and an additional year obligation, I decided to get out and go to law school. After thirty-six years as a litigation attorney and six-years of retirement, I am content with my career change.

BlueCord Dad

My son tried the corporate world when he got out. He said it didn’t do it for him. So he took his educational bennies and will graduate in December with his Masters. He is also content with his decision


“I was disillusioned with what the Army had become after Vietnam,”

Took you that long, eh? I became disillusioned with the Army during Vietnam (on three continents). In Germany I figured all the good NCOs & officers were in Vietnam. In Vietnam I learned that wasn’t true. At Benning I learned a bit about how the sausage (officers & NCOs) was made, and decided I should have extended my tour in Vietnam rather than spend that last year at Benning. I suppose much of that disillusionment was reality colliding with adolescent romanticism, but not all.

By the time my enlistment expired in 1970 I predicted Vietnam would fall in 5 years; the result of experience and avid reading including Bernard Fall, etc. and observing the frantic search for a workable strategy and even tactics by our “experts”, etc. The exact number was a lucky guess, but the conclusion was accurate.

Afghanistan clusterfuck same-same Vietnam clusterfuck.


“Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it”.

I love quotes, and the following quote, attributed to the Duke of Wellington, could as well have been said by a NVA/VC commander about the US effort.

“They came on in the same old way and we defeated them in the same old way.”

also “Deja vu all over again” (Yogi Berra)

If any of the Taliban, etc. leaders were literate enough they would probably agree.

jeff LPH 3 63-66

I joined the Navy right out of High School in 1963 when I was 17 years old and nothing at that time compares with whats going on right now.


The son of my best friend commissioned last year. His grandfather retired as a 4 star (1996). Son commissioned out of ROTC. Has stated he has no desire to serve beyond his ADSO. His grandfather was a big influence on his joining. He has said “It’s not my grandfather’s Army any more.


I laugh. I also say “I told you so”.


Apparently this catchy tune didn’t make the cut  😜 

BlueCord Dad