By J. M. Phelps
The Pentagon is aware of how progressive policies are contributing to the U.S. Army falling short of its recruiting goals, but those on the inside are prohibiting from publicly acknowledging this, according to a recently retired Army major.
More than a year after replying on behalf of the U.S. Army Recruiting Command to an inquiry from The Epoch Times about the Army’s recruitment struggles, Maj. (ret.) Charles “Chase” Spears, reached out again.
Mr. Spears has since retired wanted to share an unbridled explanation of the the state of recruiting in the Army, which finished 2023 with 55,000 new recruits, which is significantly short of the 65,000 it had aimed for in the fiscal year.
Mr. Spears attributed the declining interest in the U.S. military in part to “concerns over the encroachment of social progressivism in the ranks [and] a lack of confidence in senior leadership.”
“The Department of Defense [DOD] is well aware of that data. Those are the kinds of concerns we were absolutely not allowed under any circumstances to acknowledge,” he said.
He described the recruiting shortfall as “an exceptionally sensitive topic.” As a result, he said, “In the military, when you’re answering questions, you have to answer them according to what we call Public Affairs Guidance (PAG). PAG basically gives you issue-specific information and talking points that are cleared for public engagement.”
Unable to speak about these issues, Mr. Spears said he was “disappointed” and “frustrated.” He often wondered if there was “an ulterior motive” for denying him the ability to share the information.
On the one hand, he said, DOD emphasized “maximum disclosure with minimum delay, as long as it doesn’t jeopardize the security of a mission.” But to the contrary, he said, “DOD’s denial of sharing facts has only empowered the gorilla in the room and gotten in the way of its mission.”
Increasing Doubt and Concern
Mr. Spears and his family had planned on him fulfilling a 30-year career, but in October he chose to retire after two decades of service.
“In 2019, I began having doubts about the future of my career,” he said. “There was a cultural fight in society that was becoming more and more evident in the Army itself.”
According to him, the fight was between “traditional, nonpartisan military culture” and “another that was trending politically to the left.”
“When the Army went draconian over COVID-19 in 2020 and [Secretary of Defense] Lloyd Austin mandated the vaccine in 2021, that nailed the coffin shut for me as I watched firsthand how authoritarianism was rising to a new level in the ranks.”
All the while, recruiting numbers continued to plummet. While his previous comments to The Epoch Times in August 2022 were the “absolute truth,” he conceded “they were reserved.” At the time, he only noted the declining number of youth able to serve without a waiver, competition with corporate America, the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.
“Despite all these issues, you can’t get past the fact that there is also a political element to the problem,” Mr. Spears said, noting that the answers public affairs officials can, or will, offer on such topics are “tightly controlled.”
“Consecutive years of polling data is showing that people are less apt to recommend military service to young people,” he added.
Last year, several veteran families expressed to The Epoch Times that they were no longer encouraging their children to serve in the military for various reasons, including distrust of military leadership and “a new culture” of “woke” policies. In addition, a 2023 Gallup poll indicated that confidence in the U.S. military was at its lowest point in over two decades.
Hopeful for a Solution
According to Mr. Spears, “DOD should acknowledge the full range of issues that affect recruiting, and by doing so, it could take away some of their power to undermine public desire to serve.” Ignoring a root cause of what’s widely acknowledged as a crisis, he said, “will continue to degrade the mission of keeping the ranks filled.”
“The DOD needs to have a serious talk about what might actually help the recruiting mission, and that would have to begin by halting political appeasement and the implementation of the socially progressive orthodoxy that follows,” he said.
For Mr. Spears, the solution rests in the people of America. “Those of us who serve in this era did not earn the public trust that defined the armed services for decades,” he said. “It is to our shame that today’s generation of senior military officials have mis-stewarded that trust, so hard earned by those who wore the uniform before.” As a result, he asked for the public’s help in holding senior military leadership accountable.
“It is my desire that the American people would become more invested and expect their lawmakers to be more involved with the supervision of the service,” he said. “I feel like I’m watching the Army I love slip away, knowing it’s an institution worth saving.”
“If we lose the Army, we lose the military. If history is any indicator, we would then be well on our way to losing the Republic,” he said.
The Department of Defense and Department of the Army did not to our inquiry.