One of the keys to addressing the ongoing recruiting struggles of the U.S. military is to provide better housing, Rep. Jen Kiggans (R-Va.) argued Wednesday.
Speaking at The Hill’s Completing the Mission: Supporting Veterans & Military Families event Wednesday, the co-chair of the Servicewomen and Women Veterans Caucus said that for the armed forces to tackle the current recruiting crisis, they need to do a better job of supporting service members through housing.
“Looking at just some of our infrastructure issues, with the quality of housing that we’re putting our military members in and especially on the unaccompanied side, so much room for improvement — not just where they work, where they live, where they play,” Kiggans told NewsNation’s Washington Bureau Chief Mike Viqueira.
“We need to make sure that we are providing the best quality of care,” she added at the event, which was sponsored by Veteran Benefits Guide.
Multiple armed service branches failed to meet their active-duty enlisted recruiting goals during fiscal 2023. Despite offering innovative pre-boot camps, improved bonuses and more progressive requirements, the Army, Navy and Air Force missed their recruiting marks, while the Marine Corps and Space Force squeezed by.
In 2022, the Army missed its recruiting goal by about 15,000 soldiers.
The military, which celebrated 50 years of being an all-volunteer force in 2023, has struggled to bring in people due to citizens having other job opportunities, low confidence in the armed forces driven partly by culture war issues and reports of suicide and sexual assaults within the ranks.
“It’s an all-volunteer force. We’ve got a great military, a great country that needs to be defended, but we’ve got a lot of competition out there for jobs right now,” Kiggans, a member of the House Armed Service Committee, said. “So making sure we’re taking care of our military members is of the utmost importance to me, and I work on it every day.”
Kiggans, a former naval helicopter pilot, said earlier in October that she is “interested” in privatized housing, allowing some private sector financing for the repair and building of barracks.
As a part of the Armed Services Committee’s Recruitment, Retention and Quality of Life Task Force, Kiggans signed a letter in September that called on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to adopt recommendations, some of which would increase oversight within the barracks programs and alter the way the military does condition assessments.
“I want people who have not had experiences with the military to want to go into that line of work,” Kiggans said at the event.