There will be a shortage of between 2000 and 2500 soldiers. The army will not achieve its recruitment objectives this year, a first in almost ten years. Each year, it must attract 16,000 new soldiers to ensure generational renewal and guarantee its missions. “We are experiencing some unprecedented difficulties,” General Marc Conruyt, director of human resources for the Army, agreed on Wednesday during a meeting with the Association of Defense Journalists. But he warned against jumping to conclusions. “Our foundations are solid,” he assured. The decline in commitments is, however, likely to worry an institution that is planning for the long term.
The phenomenon does not only concern France. The Bundeswehr and the US Army are also encountering difficulties. In Germany, recruitment is down 7%, according to information from Spiegel. In the United States, the army missed its objectives by 25% in 2022, leaving 15,000 places vacant.
In France, the army has benefited from momentum since 2015, linked in particular to the impact of the attacks. The effect still persists: sense of France's defense mission, attraction of commitment to values... But the military career is subject to the same tensions that run through society: new relationship with work, drop in unemployment... If the he army still manages to attract future infantrymen, it struggles to recruit specialists in competitive fields such as digital technology, maintenance or even languages, for intelligence missions.
"There is a growing distance between the average lifestyle and the one we offer", also agreed the Chief of Staff of the Army, General Schill, implicitly evoking the constraints of availability, territorial mobility or even family life. The evolution of remuneration policy within the army also raises fears of perverse effects: the differentiation of bonuses according to geographical location risks creating distortions of attractiveness. The latest report from the High Committee for the Evaluation of the Military Condition finally revealed a feeling of “discomfort” among officers (all armies combined), fueled by a feeling of disconnection from the working conditions in senior positions. public.
The end of Operation Barkhane also weighs heavily on the rank and file. “The army is an employment army. “Adventure is fundamental to the act of engagement,” admits General Schill. The word is used in the visuals of recruitment campaigns. “There is also a social dimension linked to operational remuneration,” he adds. For ten years, the military had become accustomed to integrating the bonuses received as part of an “opex” into their life and career plans. They will no longer be perceived. “Is an exercise organized within the framework of NATO as good as a mission in the Sahel…” asks General Schill without going so far as to formulate the answer. Next to him, General Conruyt procrastinates. From Guyana to the Levant, the army is involved in other theaters. It also strengthened its presence in Romania and Estonia. In the past, she has also had periods without major surgery. “When I arrived in the regiment in 1990, we thought there would be no more missions…” he recalled. Then world news caught up with the army.
If it is put into perspective and nuanced, the recruitment crisis is not minimized. To face it, the Army promises to adapt. Efforts to retain staff beyond 5 years, individualized management of career paths, improvement of living conditions within the framework of the "Family Plan", financial efforts for professions in shortage... The army has promised reforms to better take into account social realities.