A hearing on Capitol Hill was held on 13 December 2023 to provide members with an understanding of the perceptions of the military across the media landscape, particularly on social media and how the military services are adapting to generational, societal, and cultural changes with messaging, advertising, and other efforts to protect the health of the All-Volunteer Force and increase trust in the institution.
The Honorable Ashish S. Vazirani Opening Statement
Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel & Readiness
Department of Defense
The Honorable Agnes Schaefer Opening Statement
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Manpower & Reserve Affairs
Department of the Army
The Honorable Franklin R. Parker Opening Statement
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Manpower & Reserve Affairs
Department of the Navy
The Honorable Alex Wagner Opening Statement
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower & Reserve Affairs
Department of the Air Force
Rep. Banks Opening Statement at Hearing on Perceptions of the U.S. Military (Press Release, 13 DEC 23)
U.S. Representative Jim Banks (R-IN), Chairman of the Military Personnel Subcommittee, delivered the following opening remarks at a hearing on perceptions of the military across the media landscape, and how the military services are adapting to generational, societal, and cultural shifts with messaging, advertising, and other efforts to sustain the All-Volunteer Force and increase trust in the institution.
Rep. Banks’ remarks as prepared for delivery:
I want to welcome everyone to this hearing of the Military Personnel Subcommittee. Today’s hearing is focused on “Recruiting Shortfalls and Growing Mistrust: Perceptions of the U.S. Military.”
I want to thank our witnesses for being with us today. I hope this hearing provides an opportunity for our members to have a productive exchange with our witnesses and provide answers to their questions.
By all metrics, the All-Volunteer Force has been a success. It is the most highly trained, proficient military force in the world. But at 50, the All-Volunteer Force is at a crossroads.
In 2023, all military services except the Marine Corps and Space Force missed their recruiting goals. Although none of the three largest services—Army, Navy, and Air Force—are healthy, recruiting shortfalls are particularly troubling in the U.S. Army.
Last year the Army wanted to recruit 65,000 active-duty troops but ended up falling 15,000 troops short.
To stave off worse losses, the Air Force and the Navy offered extensive financial bonuses and took a wide range of other one-time measures. The Navy increased the maximum enlistment age from 39 to 41 and the Air Force to age 42.
The recruiting crisis has multiple underlying causes, not least of which is the proliferation of bad news stories about military life….
What parent or teacher would recommend military service to their son or daughter when the overwhelming perception is that there are rats in the barracks, suicide rates are climbing, opioids are everywhere, the food options are terrible or inaccessible, and there’s a risk your child could be raped or murdered.
And there’s the administration’s pet project: forcing the military to be the guinea pig for their next social justice experiment….
Even now, when we can see that DEI has failed across the country, increasing division and hate, ignoring merit, and now fostering rampant antisemitism…. This administration still elevates Social Justice over our national security.
And the result is a steep loss in institutional trust in the services and recruiting numbers at their lowest point in 50 years.
There is one service that hasn’t tried to bend to the culture wars….
The Marine Corps stayed on message and has met their recruiting goals year after year. The Marines’ success, where every other service has failed, is an indictment of this administration’s failed social justice experiments.
From today’s panel, I want to hear how DoD and the Military Services will provide a consistent message that emphasizes service and commitment and doesn’t cater to woke theories. I want to understand how each service plans to update their recruiting strategy to address Gen Z expectations, to familiarize a distant public with military service, and to improve servicemember quality of life.
Lawmakers Grill Service Branches Over ‘Woke’ Perception of Military (CBN, 15 DEC 23)
The U.S. military is experiencing one of the worst recruiting shortfalls in 50 years. In fiscal year 2023, the military branches collectively missed their recruiting goals by approximately 41,000 recruits.
Earlier this week, representatives from each branch testified before the House Armed Services Committee about the underlying causes behind the shortfall.
“Thirty years ago when I was in high school, 40 percent of youth had a parent that served, but today, that number is under 13 percent,” said Alex Wagner, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs.
While witnesses outlined challenges ranging from getting recruiters into schools during COVID, to a decrease in eligibility, Republicans zeroed in on polling that suggests the problem is because the military has become, “the administration’s next social justice project.”
“This poll, which we can all read, found that 73 percent of veterans believe the U.S. military has become too political, regarding race, gender, sexuality. Even worse, a quarter of the veterans would tell young people not to enlist,” said Rep. Jim Banks, (R-Indiana).
“We’re now at the third time having this conversation about recruiting, and rather than actually listening to experts saying, ‘It’s complicated,’ because it is complicated, we’re still marching out these kinds of Breitbart, provenance unknown, questionnaires,” argued Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA).
“When cadets, military families, and active duty members stop bringing us these issues, then we’ll stop talking about it. But as long as they are, we have a duty to address these issues,” said Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL).
. . . (read more on CBN)
Some comments on video:
“I’m in the Army, been in for 18 years, and have worked as a recruiter. The poll that shows that the military is “too woke” is accurate so many people within the military feel this way… and the people that actually get others people to think about the military on a large scale, are not recruiters but other people in the military that talk about their experience to friends and family. The only way to turn this perception around would be to take a hard stance against liberal ideology and make an aggressive marketing campaign where they clearly state they want a strong force free from liberal ideology and apologize white people to overcome how bad they ignore their contributions to the force. Literally every other nationality gets special recognition but anything white is Ignored.”
“You enlist, then just as soon as you get off the bus, you’re told that you could go to prison for violating someone’s prioected gender status. I would never salute a fake woman, nor identify anyone other than their actual gender and would without reservation, accept prison and a dishonorable discharge to not play this game. People must reject the wrong and be willing to segregate from it, boycott it and provide aid to those who are fighting against it.”
“I am retired military. I have always advised any young person to join the military until the past two years. I now have three grandsons and if things don’t change, I will advise them to stay out of the military.”
“I am from a military family. My grandfather, father, uncles and son all served in the Army or Marines. I cannot and will not encourage my grandchildren to serve in the military. The WOKE military is why.”
“I served, and am a combat veteran. I told my kids not to enlist.”