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ARLINGTON, Virginia (LifeSiteNews) — The United States Army under President Joe Biden is poised to shrink to its smallest size since World War II, amid a perfect storm of recruitment woes, economic hardships, and soldiers driven out of the armed forces for their refusal to take the COVID-19 vaccines.

During a Pentagon press briefing this week on the Army’s budget for Fiscal Year 2023, Under Secretary of the Army Gabe Camarillo announced they have “proactively made a decision to temporarily reduce our end strength from 485,000 Soldiers to 476,000 in FY ’22, and 473,000 in FY ’23.”

Military Times reports that this “could leave the service at its smallest size since 1940, when it had just over 269,000 troops.”

Camarillo insisted that this reduction, framed as an alternative to relaxing standards for new recruits, “is not a budget driven decision,” but merely a response to “the particular conditions of a very tight labor market” and the Army’s “ability to recruit and attract talent.” He added that “we don’t anticipate that it is a lasting change.”

But critics have noted several factors omitted from the official presentation. Breitbart reports that Retired Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, says he is “unaware of a situation where the Army has cut its end strength in response to a negative recruiting outlook,” and that “if the Biden administration was not holding the Army’s budget below the level of inflation, I am not sure they would have had to resort to cutting their end strength.”

Along with the impact of economic and health factors, Spoehr also noted that the Biden administration’s “disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan has also caused some to question our military and their competence,” as well as the “sense among the American public that the military is becoming increasingly political and that topics such as race and gender equity, critical race theory, and wokeism in general are commanding more attention, at the cost of readiness.”

Breitbart notes that Gallup and Ronald Reagan Institute polls both show that the public has lost confidence in the military’s leaders, which presumably also has a significant effect on prospective soldiers’ willingness to sign up.

Another major factor is those leaders’ insistence on forcing COVID-19 vaccines on current servicemembers, despite persistent unresolved doubts about the shots’ necessity, effectiveness, and safety.

Last August, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin directed the secretaries of all military branches to “immediately begin full [COVID] vaccination of all members of the Armed Forces” and “impose ambitious timelines for implementation.” The vast majority of service members complied, but tens of thousands remain unvaccinated, with many seeking exemptions.

Several thousand have secured exemptions for non-religious reasons, but the military has been largely unwilling to approve religious exemptions to the shots, all of which were either developed or tested with the use of fetal cells from aborted babies. In December, the military began discharging soldiers for vaccine refusal.

While defenders of vaccine mandates are quick to point out that the military has long required soldiers to vaccinate against a range of diseases due to the harsh and exotic locales soldiers are sent to for extended periods of time and the close quarters they typically share with one another, previous vaccines were typically subjected to far more evaluation and development time before being put into widespread use than the COVID shots received during their accelerated clinical trials.

In late February, during a COVID-19 vaccine hearing held by US Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), attorney Thomas Renz presented medical billing data from the Pentagon’s Defense Medical Epidemiology Database (DMED) showing that 2021 saw drastic spikes in a variety of diagnoses for serious medical issues over the previous five-year average, including hypertension (2,181%), neurological disorders (1,048%), multiple sclerosis (680%), Guillain-Barre syndrome (551%), breast cancer, 487%), female infertility (472%), pulmonary embolism (468%), migraines (452%), ovarian dysfunction (437%), testicular cancer (369%), and tachycardia (302%).

In a statement to left-wing “fact-checking” outlet PolitiFact, the Defense Health Agency’s Armed Forces Surveillance Division spokesperson Peter Graves confirmed the existence of the records but claimed that a conveniently-timed “data corruption” glitch made the pre-2021 numbers appear far lower than the actual numbers of cases for those years, which PolitiFact took at face value.