The U.S. Coast Guard has missed its recruiting targets for the fourth fiscal year in a row, according to a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Titled, “Recruitment and Retention Challenges Persist,” the report revealed that the Coast Guard “is about 4,800 members short” of its target total force, as the branch marks the fourth year in a row it has come up short of its recruitment goals. This shortfall encompasses the branch’s active duty, reserve, and civilian workforces, according to the Coast Guard’s fiscal year 2024 congressional budget justification.
“The Coast Guard has also faced recruitment and retention issues within its cyberspace workforce, specialized forces, and marine inspectors,” the GAO report reads. “Competition with higher paying jobs in the private sector, limited opportunities for promotion, and long work hours have made it challenging to recruit and retain these personnel.”
Factors contributing to such retention issues include quality of health care and housing costs, according to the GAO. Coast Guard personnel stationed in remote locations, for example, could have trouble accessing quality medical care. Regarding housing costs, GAO found that the Department of Defense — which “determines [housing] allowances for all the services” to help service members with housing costs — has failed to rely “on quality data to set accurate allowance rates.” In other words, the agency has failed to adjust its housing allowances to match fluctuating housing costs.
As a possible solution to its ongoing recruiting crisis, the Coast Guard is purportedly considering “part-time” service for its active-duty service members. Speaking at a Brookings Institution event last week, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan suggested the idea of shortening the time of active-duty service per week.
“I’m [going to] use the term part-time: You’ve got some level of benefit, but you’re working three days a week instead of the 24/7, 365-day contract that comes in,” Fagan said. “If you don’t have the people, [new aircraft and cutters] are just interesting pieces of steel.”
Last week’s event wasn’t the first time Fagan has raised concerns about the Coast Guard’s ability to recruit new service members. During her State of the Coast Guard address earlier this year, Fagan warned the branch’s recruiting shortfall “threatens [the Coast Guard’s] readiness and ability to serve the American people.”
“We must ensure that every American, from coast to coast and throughout the inland states, knows who we are and what we do,” she said.
The Coast Guard is hardly the only branch of the U.S. armed forces to miss its recruiting targets in recent years. Last month, The Military Times reported the Army, Navy, and Air Force are projected to miss their fiscal year 2023 recruiting goals by 10,000, 6,000, and 3,400, respectively. The Marine Corps is the only branch expected to meet its target of 29,000 new enlistees.
In a desperate attempt to bolster its recruiting numbers, the U.S. Navy recently turned to Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley — an active-duty drag queen who goes by the stage name Harpy Daniels and identifies as nonbinary — for help. According to a Daily Caller report, Kelley was tasked by the Navy to be one of its “Navy Digital Ambassadors.” The initiative, which ran from October 2022 to March 2023, was reportedly “designed to explore the digital environment to reach a wide range of potential candidates” for military recruitment.
Military veterans such as Navy SEAL Robert J. O’Neill, who was on the mission to kill Islamic terrorist Osama bin Laden, have since blasted the Navy for its decision. Responding to the news on Twitter, O’Neill said he “can’t believe [he] fought for this bullsh-t.”
“Alright. The U.S. Navy is now using an enlisted sailor Drag Queen as a recruiter,” he wrote. “I’m done. China is going to destroy us.”
Shawn Fleetwood is a Staff Writer for The Federalist and a graduate of the University of Mary Washington. He also serves as a state content writer for Convention of States Action and his work has been featured in numerous outlets, including RealClearPolitics, RealClearHealth, and Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnFleetwood
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