WASHINGTON – Army Secretary Noel Harvey and vice chief of staff Gen. Richard Cody said Monday that the Army was using looser Defense Department rules that permitted 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 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 40 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 would use the Defense Department guidelines, he said.
Harvey said the Army was working hard to resolve its recruitment problem. The problem, he said, is “a combination of three factors: a good economy, the war in Iraq and parents reluctant to see their sons and daughters enlist” because of the war.
He confirmed that the recruiting shortfall was affecting the Army’s plans to temporarily increase troop strength of the active force by 30,000. The Army secretary said the long-term Army plan was to increase the operational Army, the soldiers who fight, from the current 315,000 to 350,000, while maintaining today’s total strength of 482,000.
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