Army Lowers Bar for New Enlistments
Army Secretary Noel Harvey and Gen. Richard Cody, the vice chief of staff, said Monday that the Army is using looser Defense Department rules that permits it to sign up more high school dropouts and people who score lower on mental-qualification tests, but they denied that this meant it was lowering standards. Until Army recruiters began having trouble signing up enough recruits earlier this year, the Army had set minimum standards that were higher than those of the Defense Department. The Army has had a recruiting shortfall of 6,000 to 8,000 soldiers during the past 12 months. It hasn’t fallen so short of its annual goal since 1979, several years after the Vietnam War. Harvey and Cody addressed the recruiting issue in news conferences during the annual convention of the Association of the U.S. Army. The Department of Defense “standards on qualification tests call for at least 60 percent Category 1 to 3 [the higher end of testing] and 4 percent Category 4,” the lowest end, Harvey said. “The other services follow that standard and the Army National Guard always followed it as well. But the active Army chose a standard of 67 percent in Categories 1-3, and 2 percent Category 4.” It now will use the Defense Department guidelines. Cody said that increasing the number of people with General Education Diplomas allowed to enlist in the Army wasn’t really a lowering of standards. GEDs are certificates granted in lieu of high school diplomas to dropouts who can pass an examination. The Army’s figures show 6.5 percent of all enlisted soldiers held GED certificates at the end of 2004, the last year statistics were available. The Army plans to keep its limit on new soldiers with GEDs at 10 percent in any year. He said the number of soldiers on recruiting duty is increasing from 9,000 to 12,000, and the Army is asking Congress to increase enlistment bonuses from a maximum of $20,000 to a new limit of $40,000 for some who choose branches where there are shortages. The advertising budget for the Army was being boosted by $130 million.