As the Army rolls along into 2023, everyone from recruiters to senior leaders to Congress are closely monitoring whether the Army will be able to shore up its recruiting and stem the end strength freefall that the service is currently experiencing.

The service experienced a shortfall of 15,000 recruits in fiscal 2022, which caused it to miss its congressionally-authorized end strength by nearly 20,000 soldiers.

And service officials have expressed fear that they won’t be able to rebound in fiscal 2023, telling Congress they think they will shrink to between 445,000 and 452,000 troops. Lawmakers responded by cutting their authorization to 452,000 in the compromise version of the defense policy bill.

It’s not clear how the continuing decline in manning will impact operations, though service officials insist that the Army will be able to meet all of its requirements with fewer troops, indicating that a potential restructuring of brigade combat teams could help.

Other efforts are underway to bolster recruiting efforts, like resurrecting the classic “be all you can be” marketing slogan and the service’s Future Soldier Preparatory Course.

But experts are worried about the potential strain on the force.

“End strength is supposed to be tied to requirements,” said Katherine Kuzminski of the Center for a New American Security think tank. “And so the question becomes: if the end strength is reduced, are the requirements reduced?”

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.

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