Wicker: Biden Mandate Hurting Military Recruitment
Military Loses Thousands of Service Members Over Vaccine Mandate
July 25, 2022
Vladimir Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine was a reminder that the world is a dangerous place. Indeed, the threats to global peace and stability continue to grow daily, with China rapidly expanding its military and Iran inching closer to a nuclear weapon. The world is in serious need of strong American leadership backed by military might. Unfortunately, our military is bleeding service members at the very moment we need them most. President Biden’s self-defeating vaccine mandate is driving away thousands of service members and causing military recruitment to plummet, making our nation less secure.
Worst Recruiting Deficit Since 1973
Of all our military branches, the Army is having the hardest time finding recruits. As of late June, the Army had met only 40 percent of its annual recruiting goal with just three months left in the fiscal year. In light of this shortfall, Vice Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Joseph Martin said the Army could find itself short 7,000 troops this year and, by next year, 28,000 troops. This manpower shortage could result in undermanned units and potentially longer deployments, as well as greater dependence on National Guardsmen to meet mission goals.
The Marine Corps is expected to meet its recruiting target this year, but the Air Force and Navy are struggling. Currently, the Air Force is down 1,650 pilots, including 1,100 fighter pilots, and the Navy is short nearly 100 fighter pilots. To offset these shortages, the Air Force has brought back a number of retired pilots to active duty, and both the Air Force and Navy are offering large bonuses for pilots who commit to another five years in uniform. If not reversed, these shortages could call into question the sustainability of our all-volunteer force.
Vaccine Mandate Drives Out Valuable Recruits
There are several reasons for low recruitment that predate President Biden. For example, today only 23 percent of young American adults meet the physical, medical, and academic standards to serve and have no disqualifying criminal record. Of that number, less than half say they are interested in military service, reflecting a broader failure in our society to encourage military service as a noble calling. President Biden inherited these challenges but has only made them worse.
Last August, the Biden Administration imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate across the entire military. This led to the expulsion of thousands of qualified service members who refused to get the vaccine. To date, the military has lost more than 1,100 soldiers, 800 airmen, 1,000 sailors, and 2,000 Marines because of this mandate, with thousands more separations likely to come. Most of these individuals are young, physically fit, and at the lowest risk of hospitalization or death from COVID. We desperately need these service members, but President Biden seems content to lose them. His vaccine order is threatening our military readiness, and I have forcefully urged his officials to rescind it.
In addition, our military is suffering from cultural decay under President Biden. Many service members have been forced to sit through divisive trainings on critical race theory and transgenderism, which have disrupted cohesion within the ranks. Service members do not want a “woke” military, and President Biden should not be surprised that his policies are alienating scores of patriotic Americans who simply want to protect our country. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I am working to correct these mistakes through legislation, including the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act. It is essential that our military attract and retain the best and brightest of the next generation.