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NDAA Authorizes Fewer Active-Duty Troops as Recruitment Remains a Challenge

December 19, 2023

Rose L. Thayer

Stars and Stripes

Students in the fitness track of the Army’s Future Soldier Preparatory Course receive resiliency training at Fort Jackson, S.C., on Dec. 13, 2022. (Keion Jackson/U.S. Army)

By Rose L. Thayer, Stars and Stripes / December 18, 2023

The size of the active-duty military authorized in this year’s annual defense bill is dropping yet again, bringing it in closer alignment to the actual number of people the services have been able to recruit.

The Fiscal Year 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, an annual bill that outlines defense priorities and spending, authorized a total of 1,283,700 troops to serve in the active-duty Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air and Space Forces. That is down nearly 5% from the 1,348,040 authorized for the previous year.

However, because of challenges to recruiting new enlistees to the services, the actual number of troops on active duty hasn’t topped 1 million since 2021, according to a Congressional Research Service report on defense spending bills.

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