The US Marine Corps is among the only branches of Washington’s armed forces to have exceeded recruitment objectives A soldier salutes the flag during a welcome home ceremony for troops arriving from Afghanistan on June 15, 2011 to Fort Carson, Colorado © Getty Images / John Moore/Getty Images

The US Army, Navy and Air Force are facing shortfalls in recruitment targets this year, as the Pentagon struggles to compete with civilian employment, while up to 77% of young people have been deemed ineligible to enlist, the New York Times said on Tuesday.

By the end of its recruitment year on September 30, the US Army fell short of its target of adding 65,000 people to its ranks, the NYT says, instead ending up with about 50,000 new personnel. It is the third successive year that the army has not met its goal, prompting military bosses to cut unfilled positions and shrink its active duty membership to 452,000 from 485,000 in 2021.

The recruitment logjam has created “an existential issue for us,” Army Secretary Christine E. Wormuth told reporters this month, even as some branches of the military relax recruitment standards and even offer financial compensation of up to $75,000 to join.

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Primary factors in the stalled recruitment effort include many Americans seeking employment in the private civilian sector, as well as large sections of US youth being deemed ineligible to even apply. A recent report by the US Department of Defense concluded that up to 77% of young people in the United States cannot enlist for a variety of reasons, including being overweight, drug abuse, or having physical or mental impairments.

The US Navy also fell short by about 7,500 hires this year, despite recruitment initiatives, including financial incentives. Even the Air Force, traditionally considered an attractive destination for new recruits, added about 10% less than expected.

“It’s been getting harder to recruit, and the military expects it to continue to get harder,” David R. Segal, a University of Maryland professor who studies historical enlistment trends, said according to the NYT.

However, one US military branch not experiencing such issues is its Marine Corps. By the September 30 deadline, the Marines had already exceeded its goal of 28,900 enlistments – and did so with little-to-no extra perks or financial incentives.

“Your bonus is that you get to call yourself a Marine,” a Marine Corps commandant said earlier this year, according to the Times. “That’s your bonus.” (RT)