Leaders from the Air Force Reserve and Navy Reserve told lawmakers in written testimonies Tuesday that their forces are expected to fall short of this year’s fiscal year recruitment goals.

In statements submitted to the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, the chiefs of the two components — whose members perform essential missions both at home and around the world — said a competitive environment to bring in new talent continues to remain a hurdle, although retaining troops who previously joined has been less of an obstacle.

While active duty officials from several of the services have said their recruiting programs are on track to meet fiscal year 2024 goals, following a tough period of attracting new troops across the armed forces, some reserve components appear to still be facing difficulties in meeting their authorized numbers.

“The Air Force Reserve faces many recruiting challenges — a decreasing propensity to serve, insufficient recruiter manning, cultural headwinds, and a competitive employment market — which are expected to persist over the next several years,” Joe Gangemi, a spokesperson from the Air Force Recruiting Service, told Military Times Wednesday via email.

The Navy Reserve is projected to finish approximately 1,200 sailors short of its FY24 end strength of 57,200, Navy Reserve chief Vice Adm. John Mustin said in his written testimony.

But, a Navy Reserve official underscored that missing that projected end strength, which they noted would still end up higher than the actual total of personnel reached the previous two fiscal years (in FY22 that was 55,224 and in FY23 it was 55,072), only provides part of the picture.

Capt. Sean Foertsch, a spokesperson for the Navy Reserve chief, shared with Military Times Wednesday that enlisted prior service recruiting is currently achieving 106 percent of the Navy Reserve’s goal and that the Selected Reserve enlisted retention rates are within half a percent of a seven-year high.

And while sailing against recruitment headwinds, Foertsch emphasized the ways in which the Navy Reserve has worked to combat the recruiting shortfall, including offering retention bonuses, tuition assistance and the establishment of the Navy Recruiting Reserve Command. That helps attract sailors who served on active duty by transitioning them to the Navy Reserve.

“Our focus remains on not only meeting quantitative goals but also ensuring the readiness and quality of our force,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Air Force Reserve projected it too will fall short in FY24 recruitment, missing its 69,600 end strength by approximately 2,900 personnel, Air Force Reserve chief Lt. Gen. John Healy said in his written testimony.

Current shortfalls are primarily with enlisted traditional reservists, said Gangemi, the spokesperson from the service’s recruiting team, adding that to address the issue the Air Force Reserve implemented an expanded travel reimbursement program and a tiered retention bonus for enlisted airmen with five to 10 years of service.

The Air Force Reserve chief Healy also outlined steps the Air Force is already taking to adjust its accession policies that may have previously limited its ability to recruit young adults, including revisions to its tattoo policy and body fat standards, as well as offering waivers for drug re-testing.

Similar to the Navy, Healy said keeping airmen in the component is currently going well, highlighting in his statement an 88.3 percent retention rate, in line with the force’s 10-year average.

Officials from the reserve components of the Army and Marine Corps said their forces are currently on target for their recruitment missions.

Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels, chief of the Army Reserve, told the congressional panel that the Army Reserve’s end strength has “remained above” the FY24 objectives.

The Marine Corps Reserve also expects to reach its new accession mission of 3,000 members, already having brought in 1,180 individuals as of the end of March, according to Master Sgt. Rebekka Heite, a spokesperson for Marine Corps Recruiting Command.

“While the recruiting force is experiencing the most challenging recruiting environment since the establishment of the all-volunteer force, the Marine Corps remains on-track to accomplish the Fiscal Year 2024 accession mission — both for active and reserve,” she told Military Times.

Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media

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