Oct 8, 2022 - Politics & Policy

National Guard falls short of target goals as troops continue to exit


Members of the Arizona National Guard. Photo: Caitlin O'Hara/AFP via Getty Images

More National Guard soldiers are leaving each month than those coming in with an overall net loss in the last year, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Staffing challenges are at a 20-year-low and if left unchecked might result in readiness issues within the next year or two, Army National Guard chief of staff Maj. Gen. Rich Baldwin told the AP.

By the numbers: In the last year, the National Guard has lost 7,500 service members.

  • The Army Guard started the fiscal year tracking ahead of its target goal but ended with a 10% shortfall in reenlistment, which contributed to it finishing the year 2% below its target with 336,00 total troops, per AP.
  • The Air Guard fell short of its target goal by nearly 3% and closed the year with 108,300 total troops.

Details: Baldwin told the AP that in exit interviews, troops shared different reasons for leaving.

  • There was a strong call to serve in the aftermath of Sept. 11, but troops think the war in Iraq and Afghanistan is over now.
  • Similarly, in 2020 and 2021, natural disasters and the pandemic fueled recruitment but now "almost all of the COVID support missions have been ramped down."

What they're saying: “We join to make a difference by serving others and by being part of something bigger than ourselves," Baldwin told the AP.

  • "There may be a perception among both our soldiers and the civilians we are trying to recruit that we are on the backside of all of that and it’s time to take advantage of the hot job market we have right now.”

Of note: The U.S. Army fell short of 10,000 soldiers this year and faced "unprecedented challenges" in recruiting despite incentives like raising bonus caps to draw in recruits.

Go deeper