Command officials told recruiters last week that those who had already been approved for the service without a diploma or GED certificate could still serve in the Army, along with those projected to enlist that day, but no one else, according to documents obtained by the Army Times.
“The 111 Non-Grad (NA) enlistment program has been suspended. Those … who have enlisted are authorized to ship [to training],” the email said. “Any other [nongrads] projected for enlistment today are authorized to enlist, but all other projection MUST be cancelled immediately. No exceptions are authorized.”
Army spokesman Matt Leonard confirmed the suspension on Tuesday but offered no additional details, according to Defense One.
The new policy initially allowed people over the age of 18 who do not have a diploma or a GED certificate to still enlist in the Army if they met all the other enlistment criteria and scored at least a 50 on the military entrance exam. Those who do have the required documents only needed a 31 on the exam. But the waiver only applied to recruits who could not complete high school due to caring for a loved one who had an illness or who were working full-time to support their family.
“The command is seeking quality individuals to serve in the U.S. Army by evaluating applicants with a ‘whole of person’ approach, understanding some quality candidates may have just reason for being unable to complete their education,” the command said in June’s press release.
The decision to waive the requirement was met with backlash online from people who accused the branch of lowering its standards to meet its recruitment goal, according to Military.com.
The waiver came after the military branch witnessed low enrollment numbers during what the U.S. Army Recruiting Command fact sheet for 2021 claims is the “most challenging labor market since the inception of the all-volunteer force.”
According to the fact sheet, 71% of youth in the country do not qualify for military service due to obesity, minor criminal infractions, or scrutiny of past medical and mental health problems. Only 23% qualify without a waiver of any kind, and only 9% of those who meet the qualifications are willing to join the military, an Army spokesperson told Defense One.
“Recruiting in the current environment is a challenge, and we have positions we need to fill right now,” Maj. Gen. Kevin Vereen, who leads the U.S. Army Recruiting Command in Fort Knox, Kentucky, said in a press release. “Our Army is counting on us to fill these training vacancies quickly, so we are able to offer incentives to gain interest in critical career fields.”
The branch already attempted to make other changes to entice new recruits, including relaxing its tattoo policy, offering higher bonuses, and reducing the length of contracts. Last month, one bonus was bumped up from $25,000 to $35,000 for going to basic training within 45 days after signing a four-year contract, according to the press release. The bonuses were on top of existing perks for military personnel, including the GI Bill, which helps soldiers pay for college, access to cheaper healthcare, and home loans.
The Army has hit about 40% of its recruiting goals for the 2022 fiscal year, an Army spokesperson told Defense One. Recruit numbers typically rise in the year’s fourth quarter after high school graduations.