The Air Force Academy has seen a huge year-on-year drop in the number of applicants interested in attending the service academy, amid a historic military recruiting crisis and a drive to boost diversity on campus.
This year, The Air Force Academy saw a 28 percent decline in its number of applicants from last year, according to Air Force Academy admissions statistics obtained by Breitbart News. In 2021, there were 11,615 applicants. In 2022, that number dropped to 8,393.
The drop in percentage of “qualified candidates” tracked by the academy was even more dire — 46 percent, according to the statistics. In 2021, there were 3,279 qualified candidates. In 2022, there were only 1,775 qualified candidates.
However, there were only about 100 fewer actual offers of admission from 2021 to 2022, suggesting a far less competitive selection process and lower quality recruits for an academy known for producing the Air Force’s pilots.
The lack of interest is despite the Air Force Academy actively trying to boost the “diversity” of its candidates by 10 percent, according to a former academy official.
Academy officials blame the lower interest on the coronavirus pandemic. Air Force Col. Arthur Primas Jr., the academy’s director of admissions, said in a statement to Breitbart News:
The Academy believes that cancellation of in-person recruiting and information events across the nation and at the Academy during the height of the pandemic, while a prudent health and safety concern, impacted the overall number of applications for the Class of 2026. With the return of in-person recruiting and information events we are already up nearly 1,700 applications from this point last year.
However, academy officials also privately acknowledge that the problems are deeper than that — a shrinking pool of qualified individuals, and an even smaller pool of those who want to serve in the military — a trend that is affecting overall military recruitment for nearly all branches.
While military officials blame the pandemic and a good job market, Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services (STARRS) – a non-profit organization founded by retired Air Force generals and Air Force Academy graduates – argues that the spread of critical race theory and other divisive political agendas throughout the military is having a huge impact.
Mike Rose, an academy graduate and executive vice president and general counsel for STARRS said in an email, “A major reason, which the Academy will not acknowledge, for the decline in applicants is that the culture of the AFA has changed to promote racial and radical leftist ideologies.”
In an interview with Breitbart News, STARRS Director of Operations Matthew Lohmeier, a former Space Force lieutenant colonel and Air Force Academy graduate, said parents — among the top influencers for military service — have told him and others at STARRS that they are turned off by the academy’s embrace of CRT.
For example, he said there are now cadets at the Air Force Academy who effectively act as political commissars to ensure diversity and inclusion trainings are conducted and their standards enforced. The cadets even wear special braided ropes so that other cadets can easily identify them as people they can talk to about race and identity issues and go to with complaints.
Lohmeier also cited former academy track and field coach Dana Lyon, who told STARRS that the academy lost five excellent female athlete recruits because they and their families were “very concerned about what they were seeing about the direction of the defense department and the news over the last year.”
That news included congressional hearings where top military leaders defended learning about critical race theory. During one hearing, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said he wanted to learn about “white rage” — a term used by critical race theorists. In another hearing, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday defended putting the book How to Be an Antiracist by critical race theorist Ibram X. Kendi on his recommended reading list for all sailors.
Lohmeier said those hearings led to a loss of trust in the military’s leadership:
There began to be from that moment forward, a loss of trust and confidence in our senior military leaders that we’ve never quite experienced before as a country. The American people got to see firsthand how the culture of the United States military was rapidly changing, celebrating values that the majority of American people don’t celebrate themselves and teaching ideology in place of focusing on duty, honor, and country.
Indeed, a December 2021 Ronald Reagan Institute survey showed that Americans with a great deal of confidence in the U.S. military had dropped 11 percentage points from February 2021, under President Joe Biden.
The survey also showed that the percentage of Americans having a great deal of trust and confidence in the military was only 45 percent, with confidence falling among Republicans by 34 points, among Independents by 28 points, and among Democrats by 17 points since 2018.
In addition, a January 2022 poll by Gallup showed that the public image of military leaders’ ethics has dropped, particularly among Republicans.
“The American people sense that the more you politicize the armed forces, the more potential there is that you’ll have division, not unity, and you’ll lose focus on the mission that you’re actually supposed to be accomplishing,” said Lohmeier.
Lohmeier himself left the Air Force after he was fired as commander of the 11th Space Warning Squadron for publishing a book and speaking out about the spread of Marxism within the service. He has continued his battle against Marxism in the military with STARRS.
STARRS was founded the summer of 2020, after the Air Force Academy football team put out a three-minute video promoting Black Lives Matter and what they considered racist talking points. A group of alumni, including Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Rod Bishop — who is now chairman of STARRS’ Board of Directors — approached the academy leadership with their concerns.
They said their concerns were dismissed at first, but after they continued expressing them with new Air Force Academy Superintendent Lt. Gen. Richard Clark, a new film was released that STARR said still had “woke” propaganda but was a “dramatic improvement” from the previous pro-BLM video.
Since then, the group has taken on new initiatives. STARRS has submitted 30 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests on claims of systemic racism and diversity and inclusion trainings at the military service academies and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Most of the requests remain unanswered or unresolved, Lohmeier said.
“Overall, the founders intend STARRS to become a dynamic and influential force to promote balance, unity, and adherence to the US Constitution and to prevent the politicization of the service academies and the Department of Defense,” its website states.
“We envision service academies and armed forces that shall always faithfully serve the American people while remaining apolitical, colorblind and unified,” it states.
Primas, the Air Force Academy’s director of admissions, defended diversity and inclusion initiatives at the academy and argued that they strengthened recruiting.
“The Academy strives to ensure all young people, especially those representing diversity in background, experiences, thought, career-focus, academic, and athletic interests are made aware of the Academy as an opportunity. This focus has proven a tremendous strength of U.S. Air Force Academy recruiting,” he said.