By BG Don Bolduc, US Army ret
The United States military plays a crucial role in safeguarding the nation’s security and defending its interests worldwide.
However, recent trends indicate a concerning crisis within the military, with all branches struggling to meet recruitment goals and experiencing declining retention rates.
This essay aims to explore the factors contributing to this crisis, including:
- The perceived focus of senior military leadership on politics and personal gain
- A departure from military values and ethics
- The impact of woke political policies
- The inability to achieve decisive victories in recent conflicts
- A loss of confidence among parents in recommending military service to their children
The Failure of the Congress: Undermining Military Preparedness and Recruitment
The failure of the US Congress to fulfill its responsibilities in ensuring the preparedness and effectiveness of the US military has contributed significantly to the current low retention and recruitment rates.
The constant partisan gridlock, insufficient funding, neglect of force structure requirements, and inadequate support for veterans have all played a role in undermining the military’s ability to fight and win.
Congress must recognize and rectify its shortcomings to address these issues effectively. Bipartisan cooperation and a commitment to the nation’s security should precede political agendas.
Congress must prioritize allocating sufficient resources, provide a clear vision for the military’s future, and support the well-being of service members and veterans.
Additionally, the American public must also hold Congress accountable for its failures in fulfilling its obligations to the military.
By demanding transparency, accountability, and bipartisan collaboration, citizens can be crucial in ensuring that Congress upholds its responsibilities and supports a strong and prepared military.
Ultimately, the US military’s ability to fight and win depends not solely on its capabilities but also on the support and leadership provided by Congress.
Only through a concerted effort to address these issues can the US military regain its readiness, attract and retain qualified personnel, and uphold its position as a global force for peace and security.
Social Politicization of the Military by Senior Military Leadership
The military is a political organization. However, the military cannot and should be used to promote the social-political agendas of political parties.
This happened beginning with the Clinton Administration and solidified with the Biden Administration.
One key factor contributing to the crisis in the US military lies in the prioritization of social politics that is tied to the advancement of senior military leadership.
The pursuit of social and political agendas and a focus on securing promotions have overshadowed the core responsibilities of military leadership.
General George C. Marshall understood the politics of the military and how that applied to the political agendas of political leaders and parties.
He did not allow social politics to invade the military because he knew the damage this would cause to the military and the senior leader’s ability to serve the nation.
The senior military leadership’s abandonment of General Marshall’s successful process of selecting senior officers is the leading cause of the failure of the senior leadership today.
The visible social politicization of senior leaders by our service members and recruits has negatively affected recruitment and retention. https://www.brookings.edu/articles/the-case-for-rethinking-the-politicization-of-the-military/
Erosion of Military Values, Ethics, and Principles
Another contributing factor is the perceived departure from military values, ethics, and principles.
The military has long prided itself on its commitment to honor, integrity, and service to the nation.
However, instances of misconduct, ethical lapses, and a lack of accountability have tarnished the image of the military in recent years.
Such departures from established values can undermine the motivation and morale of service members, as well as dissuade potential recruits who value these principles.
I refer to the monograph published by two War College professors called Lying to Ourselves: Dishonesty in the Military Profession. The monograph is as valid today as in 2015 when it was written.
Neglecting Veteran Support
Another aspect of congressional, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Defense failure is the inadequate support provided to veterans after their service.
Issues such as healthcare, mental health, and transition assistance are crucial for maintaining the morale and well-being of military personnel.
However, Congress, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Defense have yet to adequately address these concerns, leading to a lack of trust and further discouraging potential recruits from joining.
Impact of Woke Political Policies
Introducing woke political policies within the military is also the cause of the recruitment and retention crisis.
These policies, intended to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion, have detracted from readiness and training, shifting focus away from core military objectives.
The military did not have the social problems that warranted the overreaction by senior civilian and military leaders.
The values of diversity and inclusion have been honored in the military, and prioritizing these policies over operational readiness in today’s military has distracted from its primary purpose.
Inability to Achieve Military Victories
The inability of the US government to achieve military victories in recent conflicts has also taken a toll on recruitment and retention rates.
Prolonged engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan and failed withdrawals have raised doubts about the effectiveness and purpose of military operations in other countries.
This is an unfortunate consequence because the US military must be deployed to protect our national interests and safeguard our freedoms and liberty.
Service members and potential recruits may question the worthiness of sacrificing their lives or careers for missions where they question their senior leader’s motivations.
The US military’s crisis regarding recruitment and retention is a multifaceted issue with various contributing factors.
The perception of senior military leadership being more interested in politics and personal gain, a departure from military values and ethics, the impact of woke political policies, the inability to achieve decisive victories, and a loss of confidence among parents all play a role in deterring potential recruits and undermining retention efforts.
Addressing this crisis requires a comprehensive approach.
Senior military leaders must prioritize the military’s core mission and commit to upholding military values, ethics, and principles.
Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion must be balanced with maintaining operational readiness and training.
The US government must also reassess its strategic objectives and ensure that military engagements have clear goals and achievable outcomes.
Additionally, rebuilding public trust and confidence in the military is crucial.
Parents play a significant role in influencing their children’s career choices, and their confidence in the military as an institution must be restored.
This can be achieved through transparent communication, highlighting the noble aspects of military service, and showcasing success stories of service members who embody the values and principles of the military.
Ultimately, addressing the crisis in recruitment and retention requires a collective effort from military leadership, policymakers, and society.
By recognizing the challenges at hand and working towards solutions prioritizing the integrity and effectiveness of the military, the US can regain its status as an attractive career option for those who wish to serve their country.
General Don Bolduc (Army Ret.) started his career as a private in the United States Army. He did 10 tours in Afghanistan from 2001-2013. He now advocates for veterans and is an Associate Professor at New England College. He is a Laconia, NH native and resides in Stratham, NH.