The children of military families make up the majority of new recruits in the U.S. military. That pipeline is now under threat, which is bad news for the Pentagon’s already acute recruitment problems, as well as America’s military readiness.
“Influencers are not telling them to go into the military,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in an interview. “Moms and dads, uncles, coaches and pastors don’t see it as a good choice.”
After the patriotic boost to recruiting that followed 9/11, the U.S. military has endured 20 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan with no decisive victories, scandals over shoddy military housing and healthcare, poor pay for lower ranks that forces many military families to turn to food stamps, and rising rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide.
Only 9% of young people ages 16-21 said last year they would consider military service, down from 13% before the pandemic, according to Pentagon data.
...The lowest-ranking troops make less than $2,000 a month, although pay is bolstered by benefits including healthcare, food and housing, leaving them few out-of-pocket expenses.
Families or those who live off base can find expenses outstrip income. More than 20,000 active-duty troops are on SNAP benefits, otherwise known as food stamps, according to federal data.