Despite their efforts to boost recruitment by lowering standards, the US military has struggled to meet its goals in 2022, The Daily Caller reports.
According to the Department of Defense, the Army saw a significant drop in recruiting, while the other branches just met their goals for the fiscal year ending September 30.
Military expert Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense, warned that policy changes implemented by the military to attract more recruits could potentially negatively impact readiness.
“By reducing certain standards, the military and the administration are trying to overcome the greatest recruiting challenge they have ever faced,” Spoehr said.
In December, the Navy relaxed its entrance exam requirements, allowing roughly 20% of its new active duty enlisted cohort, or 7,500 recruits, who scored at minimum levels on tests measuring physical and mental aptitude, to join. Despite meeting its fiscal year 2022 recruiting goal with a surplus of just 42 sailors, the Navy has raised its target for 2023 by an additional 4,000 applicants, according to Military.com. Officials insist that this change does not reflect a lowering of standards.
“Changing the AFQT requirement removes a potential barrier to enlistment, allowing us to widen the pool of potential recruits and creating opportunities for personnel who wish to serve,” said Navy Recruiting Command spokesperson Cmdr. David Benham. “We are continuing to navigate a challenging recruiting environment.”
The Air Force also made changes to its entrance requirements, announcing in September a policy that gives applicants who test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol, the active ingredient in marijuana, during their entrance physical a second chance to come clean. Prior to this policy, they would have been automatically disqualified from service.
In June, the DOD shortened the minimum amount of time that individuals with a history of conditions such as asthma or behavioral health issues like attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder would need to be symptom-free in order to enlist without a waiver. As a result, the military allowed 700 recruits previously diagnosed with ADHD to join without a waiver in 2022, according to The Wall Street Journal. Spoehr warns that this change could “reasonably lead to lower quality recruits and diminished readiness.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also reversed a longstanding ban in June on individuals infected with HIV from deploying abroad or joining the officer corps. Personnel with nearly undetectable levels of HIV and no symptoms are now able to serve without restrictions or barriers to enlistment, according to a DOD memo.
In an effort to measure combat readiness, the Army modified its fitness evaluation in June to take age and gender into account. However, preliminary results from the new Army Combat Fitness Test in 2021 showed that women continued to fail the test at higher rates than men, according to Army Forces Command data shared with Military.com, compared to the previous gender-neutral testing regime.
In June, the Army also eliminated time-consuming waiver requirements for soldiers to have tattoos on their hands, the backs of their necks, and behind their ears. The policy, which aimed “to help compete for top talent,” according to a statement, was intended to have “no appreciable impact on military readiness,” according to Spoehr.
However, the Army faced backlash and quickly reversed its decision to eliminate the high school diploma or GED requirement in June, according to Defense One. Despite these efforts, the Army fell short of its recruiting goal for 2022 by over 6,500 recruits.