WASHINGTON — U.S. Army officials on Wednesday said the 247-year-old military branch is experiencing its biggest recruiting challenges in decades and hopes a new plan will revive its ability to attract young people: a rebrand.
Or at least a reboot of the old slogan, “Be All You Can Be,” which was used during the 1980s. Officials unveiled two new TV commercials as part of its rebranding for efforts that feature the actor Jonathan Majors.
“Frankly all of the military services are facing the most challenging recruiting landscape in decades,” said Army Secretary Christine Wormuth. “So it is a perfect time to be launching our new brand.”
She added, “I am super excited that we are bringing back a reinvented version of ‘Be All You Can Be’ because I think it really does speak to the many, many possibilities that the Army offers.”
The U.S. spent nearly 20 years at war after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack, which drove a spike in military enlistments, until the U.S. formally withdrew from Afghanistan in the summer of 2021. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, speculation has stewed about whether the U.S. might be drawn into the conflict, particularly if Russian President Vladimir Putin were to continue his quest into a NATO-allied country like Poland.
During an unveiling event, Wormuth said that all military services are facing the “most challenging recruiting landscape in decades.” She said the Army’s new slogan is intended to “speak to the many, many possibilities that the Army offers.”
Gen. James McConville said that people who do not have relatives in their family who have served in the Army may not realize that there are “endless possibilities.”
“Your American soldiers are not only masters of combat arms but we have doctors, we have lawyers, we have logisticians, we have coders,” McConville said.
Asked what can be done to close the gulf between the civilian and military worlds in terms of recruitment, Wormuth said the Army is working to increase its visibility.
McConville said the military has become a “family business,” with a high percentage of men who enlist having come from families with military experience.
“Now we need to get out into communities and get away from our bases and camps and make sure the American people, parents, teachers, and young men and women know about the opportunities that exist for success in the United States,” he said.
Wormuth said the Army has set a “very ambitious goal” of 65,000 recruitments for this year — a jump from last year’s goal of 50,000, The Army fell short of that goal, with 45,000 recruits last year.
Wormuth added that the Army is spending more on marketing for its recruitment efforts this year, with a $117 million budget.
The Army is also spending more on recruiting incentives such as bonuses that are targeted at military occupational specialties that tend to be more difficult to fill, and on its prep course for future soldiers, according to Wormuth.
“I think we’re going to need to keep doing that for a few years because you know, as I often say, we didn’t get into this challenging recruiting landscape overnight in just a year,” Wormuth said. “And it’s going to take us I think, more than a year to get out.”
Every branch of the U.S. military was struggling to meet its fiscal year 2022 recruiting goals, according to multiple U.S. military and defense officials. Numbers obtained by NBC News found both a record-low percentage of young Americans eligible to serve and an even slimmer fraction willing to consider it.
An internal Defense Department survey obtained by NBC News last year found that only 9% of those young Americans eligible to serve in the military had any inclination to do so, the lowest number since 2007.