Army Lowers Standards, Meets Recruiting Target
The Army has met its recruiting target but had to lower intellectual and moral standards to do so.
The U.S. Army recruited more than 2,600 soldiers under new lower aptitude standards this year, helping the service beat its goal of 80,000 recruits in the throes of an unpopular war and mounting casualties.
The recruiting mark comes a year after the Army missed its recruitment target by the widest margin since 1979, which had triggered a boost in the number of recruiters, increased bonuses, and changes in standards. The Army recruited 80,635 soldiers, roughly 7,000 more than last year. Of those, about 70,000 were first-time recruits who had never served before.
According to statistics obtained by The Associated Press, 3.8 percent of the first-time recruits scored below certain aptitude levels. In previous years, the Army had allowed only 2 percent of its recruits to have low aptitude scores. That limit was increased last year to 4 percent, the maximum allowed by the Defense Department.
The Army said all the recruits with low scores had received high school diplomas. In a written statement, the Army said good test scores do not necessarily equate to quality soldiers. Test-taking ability, the Army said, does not measure loyalty, duty, honor, integrity or courage.
Daniel Goure, vice president of the Lexington Institute, a private research group, said there is a “fine balance between the need for a certain number of recruits and the standards you set.” “Tests don’t tell you the answer to the most critical question for the Army, how will you do in combat?” Goure said. But, he added, accepting too many recruits with low test scores could increase training costs and leave technical jobs unfilled. “The absolute key for the Army is a high-school diploma,” Goure said.
About 17 percent of the first-time recruits, or about 13,600, were accepted under waivers for various medical, moral or criminal problems, including misdemeanor arrests or drunk driving. That is a slight increase from last year, the Army said. Of those accepted under waivers, more than half were for “moral” reasons, mostly misdemeanor arrests. Thirty-eight percent were for medical reasons and 7 percent were drug and alcohol problems, including those who may have failed a drug test or acknowledged they had used drugs.
Having another 3.8 percent vice 2 percent of the recruiting class having lower IQ scores (presumably, Cat-IV, the lowest quartile) is not the end of the world. The Army is a big institution and can absorb a few slower recruits.
Still, it reinforces a point made here and elsewhere many times over the past few years: An all-volunteer force is going to have ebbs and flows based on both the civilian economy and the strategic environment. It’s hardly a surprise that a long, unpopular war makes recruiting difficult. While patriotic ferver such as existed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and even a sense of adventure as existed early in this war will drive up both the size and quality of the enlistment pool; constant hardship will have the opposite effect.
Related posts below the fold.
Elsewhere: James Joyner, “Backdoor Draft?” TCS, 11 January 2005.
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