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.


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Elsewhere: James Joyner, “Backdoor Draft?” TCS, 11 January 2005.

OTB: Military Personnel, General

OTB: Military Recruiting

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Triumph says:

    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.

    Isn’t actually BETTER for the Army to have a few more low-IQ folks out there? I am not a military person, but I visit the big basic training bases–like Ft. Knox–several times a year for work, and one of the things that has struck me with the Army is their deliberate strategy of ideological indoctrination.

    I don’t mean it, necessarily, in a political way–but rather in a bureaucratic way, i.e. wringing out every shred of individualism in favor of the imposed values of the collective. The officers I talk to are quite up front about this when I express my astonsishment.

    They argue–and they are probably correct–that ideological indoctrination is necessary to maintain an effective bureaucacy. But, it seems really insulting to anyone with a shred of self-worth and intelligence. Thus, if you have people who are less intelligent, it is easier to mold them in ways that serve the bureaucracy.

  2. DC Loser says:

    I think Triumph mistakes the military’s initial training process for “ideological” indoctrination. All military branches do this – military training requires the solider to put the group’s needs before the individual. That doesn’t mean individuals cannot express themselves. When the chips are down and you are in a fight for your life, the team work instilled by training will save your life. Individual “Rambos” will get people killed.

  3. Triumph says:

    I think Triumph mistakes the military’s initial training process for “ideological” indoctrination. All military branches do this – military training requires the solider to put the group’s needs before the individual.

    I am using the term “ideological” in a more philosophical way–simply to refer to a discrete set of beliefs about social organization–rather than politically.

    If you have ever spent time in a military base, the entire operation is designed to inculcate a set of beliefs about the organization. From the uniforms on down to the organization of the physical space–it emphasizes an unquestioning acceptance of the heirarchical elements of the bureaucracy.

    You are correct that it is necessary for the bureaucracy’s functioning.

    My main point is that for people with higher IQ, creativity, etc, when given choices, may be less likely to join a homogenous organization like the military.

    All organizations require that we accept some shared values–but in an organization like, say, Google there is more flexibility for individuality than in the Army.

    People with more intellegence are more likely to gravitate to those organizations than bureaucratic behemoths like the Army.

  4. Anderson says:

    An all-volunteer force is going to have ebbs and flows based on both the civilian economy and the strategic environment.

    I’m not up on this topic, so help me out.

    If we’re having trouble recruiting, isn’t the obvious solution a rise in soldiers’ pay and benefits?

    Call me a hopeless free-market ideologue ….

  5. James Joyner says:

    Triuph,

    The military is training individuals to venture into harm’s way and to put the needs of the team ahead of their own self-preservation. That goes against every basic human instinct.

    I’d note, too, that the process is not radically different than what football coaches do with their charges. Molding that kind of team requires indoctrination such that the esteem of ones colleagues is more important than physical hardship, stress, or other factors which the individual will be confronted.

    As with football players, intelligence is valuable for a soldier. In both cases, you need people to execute the gameplan as designed yet simultaneously make adjustments on the fly in reaction to the circumstances on the ground.

  6. Kent G. Budge says:

    I find it interesting that, during the Second World War, the U.S. Army was initially somewhat picky about who it chose to induct. As much as 25% of draftees were sent home as physically, mentally, or morally unfit.

    As the war progressed, and the manpower shortage became greater, the Army became less choosy. The low quality of replacements was noticed by front-line soldiers. (Not all were poor human material, of course, and not all the problems were due to poor human material; but it was a factor.)

  7. Anderson says:

    The low quality of replacements was noticed by front-line soldiers.

    Particularly since, of the lower-quality pool, the lowest were put in the front line as infantry.

  8. DC Loser says:

    All organizations require that we accept some shared values—but in an organization like, say, Google there is more flexibility for individuality than in the Army

    When was the last time a Google employee had to risk being blown up or shot on a routine basis? You can’t compare the military to civilian occupations as the risks certainly aren’t similar.

  9. george says:

    If we’re having trouble recruiting, isn’t the obvious solution a rise in soldiers’ pay and benefits?

    That would seem to be the classic free market solution … seems like it might be worth trying.

  10. Anderson says:

    When was the last time a Google employee had to risk being blown up or shot on a routine basis?

    “Not often enough,” mutter various Yahoo! employees …

    But seriously, back to my question: why is it okay to run these huge deficits, but not to offer (say) a 50% pay hike for all enlisted ranks?

  11. James Joyner says:

    Anderson,

    A “50% pay hike for all enlisted ranks” would skew the compensation balance of the military, for one thing. There actually have been pretty substantial signing bonus incentives and other re-enlistment incentives. But the military already pays better than what a typical high school graduate could get. It’s just that the prospect of getting sent overseas for 18 months at a pop while enduring the risk of getting blown to bits is hard to incentivize.

  12. G.A. Phillips says:

    Start the draft, and start it now. Just think how many liberal voters will flee to Canada, man, we still might have a chance in this election yet, even though the ACLU will probably sue for the rights of an active draft dodger to vote I’ll take the odds. I like that kind of ebb and flow.

  13. Anderson says:

    But the military already pays better than what a typical high school graduate could get. It’s just that the prospect of getting sent overseas for 18 months at a pop while enduring the risk of getting blown to bits is hard to incentivize.

    That sounds like a euphemism for “we don’t actually want to pay what the hazards are worth.”

    A “50% pay hike for all enlisted ranks” would skew the compensation balance of the military, for one thing.

    Well, pay the officers more too.

    Anecdotes aren’t evidence, but we’ve heard a few anecdotes about how much more “contractors” are making than our troops are. Maybe doing front-line counterinsurgency work is actually worth $75K a year?

  14. Maniakes says:

    The low-test-score proportion is 3.8%, up from 2%. There were 80000 recruits, 7000 more than last year.

    3.8% – 2% = 1.8%

    1.8% of 80000 is 1440

    7000 – 1440 = 5560

    So, without lowering test score standards, the army would still have had 5560 more recruits than last year.

  15. James Joyner says:

    Anderson,

    Sure. I’ve long advocated raising Hostile File pay. It was a ridiculous $150 a month during Desert Storm and is only $225 now. Something like $1500-2000 a month strikes me as far more reasonable.

  16. Steven Plunk says:

    Perhaps it’s a good thing to lower the standards. Many of those people who have had a brush with the law would find discipline and rewards for hard work in military service. How many times have you heard about boys joining up and returning as young men? I have heard it and seen it firsthand.

    Discipline, training, education. The military can provide all of these to people who may not ordinarily get them. Accepting those from the fringes could better society overall.

  17. legion says:

    Anderson, James,
    I can vouch for both of your opinions. The problem is that the federal bureaucracy is mind-numbingly slow in actually implementing such bonuses… Case in point: during the dot-com boom of the 90s, the military in general (& the AF in particular) was losing skilled techs, especially in the mid-NCO and junior-officer grades, to the civ world like nobody’s business. A guy with the right Cisco or MSFT skills could literally triple their salary overnight. So the AF started a) shoveling all enlistees who didn’t say otherwise fast enough into comm-computer fields and b) offered junior officers $40k for a 4-year commitment. Unfortunately, they started doing these things around the 2000-01 timeframe, long after the bust, when people were beginning to see the military as serious job security…

  18. Anderson says:

    Btw, this issue is another example of Democratic Party stupidity.

    Just imagine the TV spots they could do with VA benefits, low salaries, etc. The notion that the Dems are somehow anti-military is pervasive, & they could steal the ball handily. But no …

  19. Pug says:

    Start the draft, and start it now. Just think how many liberal voters will flee to Canada…

    Yeah, start the draft now and see how many SUV-drivin’, W-04 sticker-displayin’, war-supportin’ suburbanites suddenly become liberals because little Johnny might get pulled out of college into Iraq. Little Johnny might not be too fired up by the prospect, either.

  20. DC Loser says:

    GA is now on the same sheet of music as Charlie Rangel on the draft.