The U.S. Military can add the chaplains to their branches on their own, but Congress is trying to decide whether they should either require or prohibit the branches from doing so.
Supporters of adding the chaplains point to the large number of military members with no religious affiliations. Out of the 1.4 million active service members in the military, nearly 290,000 of them identify as atheist, agnostic, or non-religious. For some perspective, the number of military members identifying as Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu is less than 13,000 combined, yet all of these religions have sponsored chaplains in the military.
What’s more, chaplains provide a counseling outlet for members of the military seeking help that do not want their discussions reported to their superiors. Visits with military psychologists and psychiatrists are noted in a service member’s records, while visits with chaplains are confidential.