The U.S. Air Force admits that it is struggling to meet its recruitment goals, but its leader isn’t panicking. Instead, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall said the service is working on ways to “manage” the shortfall, and make service more flexible and appealing on the job market.
“We have things that we can do to manage our way through this, so we’re not in any kind of crisis,” Kendall said at an event hosted by the Center for New American Security on Thursday, June 22, per Air & Space Forces Magazine.
Currently the Air Force, like other service branches, is falling short of its recruitment goals for this fiscal year. In April the Air Force said it will be 27,000 recruits short, or 10 percent below its goal. The Air National Guard also expects to miss its target by 4,000. However, Kendall said the recruiting troubles would not dramatically impact the Air Force’s operations or readiness.
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As with the Army, Kendall said the Air Force isn’t aiming to lower standards to help bring in new members. Prior to Kendall’s remarks this week, the Air Force had been making changes. That included new rules on tattoos on hands and neck, as well as a new body fat composition test that does away with the previous standard tape test.
“We’ve got a long list of things that where we have rules in place that really didn’t make any sense,” Kendall said.
The U.S. armed forces have been trying ways to overcome declining enlistment. Other branches have turned toward financial incentives, offering potential new recruits cold hard cash as a way to get them to enlist. The Army has offered increased enlistment bonuses, offering tens of thousands of dollars to people who would quickly ship off to basic training. Despite this, the U.S. Army is on track to fall short of its recruitment goals for the second year in a row. Earlier this month, the U.S. Navy unveiled a new set of enlistment bonuses, offering $50,000–$75,000 to people who signed up for roles in nuclear fields. The Air Force has tried this as well, with Air Force Reserve Command offering a $10,000 bonus for prior service enlisted airmen to join the Reserve.
In May the Department of the Air Force (encompassing both the U.S. Air Force and Space Force) launched two programs to get current enlisted airmen to refer others to recruitment, with the possibility of awards or promotion in return.