Recruiting Shortages as White Americans Refuse to “Be All They Can Be” 


The US military faces a severe recruiting crisis, and the decline in white enlistment is a significant factor. According to data obtained by the Daily Caller, the number of white recruits has dropped by 31% from 2019 to 2023, while the number of non-white recruits has increased by 12%. This has resulted in a significant demographic shift in the military and a shortage of qualified candidates for leadership positions. 

The shortages come when the United States faces conflicts overseas and on its shores. Currently, U.S. soldiers have been deployed to the Middle East, South Asia, and the Pacific while also facing a hostile Russia in Europe. 

Meanwhile, The US military hopes to stop China from becoming too powerful by using “integrated deterrence,” an attempt to show that any aggression or coercion against America’s armed forces would be too costly and risky. But per the Daily Caller report, the US military is losing its strength and standing on the global stage. 

While the Army is encountering the most severe recruiting challenges within the military, data indicates that a comparable trend exists throughout all branches of the armed services. The Air Force had a decline from 21,593 recruits in 2018 to 15,068 in 2023. The Marine Corps saw similar decreases, dropping from 21,455 recruits in 2018 to 14,287 in 2023. 

The Navy tells the same story, with white recruits declining from 24,343 in 2018 to 18,205 in 2023, and the Air Force faces similar woes with a drop from 21,593 in 2018 to 15,068 in 2023. 

Military officials have no solid reasons for the drop in white recruits throughout the armed services. Some debate is ongoing regarding the diversity efforts of military branches, with an Air Force spokesman denying the issue has any connection. “Recognizing that Generation Z represents the newest cohort of service members, it is essential to meet their expectations for an inclusive workplace,” the unnamed spokesman said.  

However, some Army officials believe that aggressive diversity tactics played a key role in declining white recruits, noting that the military has encountered increased criticism concerning its efforts to advance diversity and inclusion. This situation may be keeping white Americans from joining the military by causing them to feel excluded for being white. 

For years, the military has been focusing on reaching out to women and minority racial or ethnic groups, introducing new programs each year to increase their presence in the armed forces. 

Pentagon officials and official documents describe the military’s objectives to boost the proportion of minority ethnic and racial groups among its ranks. 

While there are no specific quotas for representation, the Pentagon’s 2026 strategic plan establishes annual targets for increasing the presence of minorities and women in military career fields and aims to have more minorities in the pool of applicants eligible for promotion to higher ranks. 

The top military officer at the Pentagon has expressed that he prioritizes hiring for diversity, a move that Robert Greenway, director of the Allison Center for National Security at Heritage, cautions against. “The services are prioritizing racial goals, and when you pursue racial goals and composition, you’re going to change your recruiting policy,” Greenway warns, adding that focusing on race, gender, and ethnicity would impact groups, such as white Americans, who would no longer sign up because of the perception that they will be held back because of their race or gender. 

Other factors are at play as well, such as physical fitness. According to an Army press release, only 23% of Americans aged 17 to 24 meet the minimum physical and academic requirements for joining the military without needing a waiver. As per the Army, obesity stands out as a primary factor for the ineligibility of many young Americans to enlist in the military. The obesity rate among white Americans has notably risen from 32.4% in 2018 to 38.9% in 2023, potentially shrinking the pool of potential white recruits. 

Furthermore, only about 10% of individuals in this age group are interested in joining. Officials suggest that the civilian job market may offer more appealing opportunities with superior benefits. A 2022 Army survey found that young white Americans most frequently cited the stress of military life and the desire to pursue other careers as inhibiting factors to joining the armed forces. 

Army officials also feel that a young America is losing its trust in government institutions. “Fewer white Americans see the military as a righteous way to serve their country,” Greenway noted. And it’s hard to convince white Americans to fight for a country they are losing faith in.