Military leaders are recognizing—and publicly admitting—that the planned increase of 92,000 ground forces will exacerbate already tough recruiting job. The latest to acknowledge the problem was Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Conway, whose force stands to grow by 27,000 over the next five years. Conway told lawmakers at a House Appropriations military construction panel hearing March 13 that the program the Corps is laying out will be “reasonable to grow the force 5,000 a year.” However, he admitted, “It’s going to be a challenge.” He went on to say that recruiters are challenged right now, and that has led to a lower delayed enlistment pool. To counter current problems, the Corps has increased the number of marines it will allow to re-enlist from 25 percent to about 35 percent, which means it will become a slightly older force than today. Like the Air Force, Conway insists that the Corps doesn’t intend to lower its standards, at least for now. “I will tell you, at this point, we do not intend to lower our standards,” said Conway.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.