The Washington Post on September 22, 2023 carried an opinion piece by former Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper (2019-2020). He was President Trump's Defense Secretary and fired after he called Trump's effort to subvert the 2020 presidential outcome "a national embarrassment that undermined our democracy." His term as Defense Secretary was distinguished by his attempt to modernize the military and especially the recruitment thereof. For that reason his concern about the decline in the number of Americans who are qualified and interested in serving, deserves attention:
"The fact is , the pool of Americans ages 17 to 24 who are qualified and interested in serving continues to shrink. When I was Army secretary in 2017, 71 percent of these 34 million young people could not meet the military's entry requirements, mostly because of obesity, drug abuse, and physical and mental health problems. That number is even higher now. About half of the 23 percent remaining who are eligible to serve today decide to attend college. At the same time, the share of the entire cohort with a propensity to serve has dropped from 13 percent to 9 percent. That leaves fewer than 500,000 potential recruits. It's hard to believe that a nation of 333 million people can't produce a larger pool."
Maybe if the military offered to cover the cost of a college education after military service more young people would be interested in enlisting.