February 08, 2023

Stop Holding Recruits to One-Size-Fits-All Standards

If the U.S. military is to attract highly tech-skilled recruits for modern warfare, its recruiting philosophies must evolve. “We need data scientists, coders and engineers as much as we need pilots, submariners and infantry,” the secretaries of the Army, Air Force, and Navy wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. But they are still recruiting under the old vision that every soldier needs to have the physical abilities of a frontline infantryman.

The services need to let go of this antiquated requirement; they must also consider what billets can be better filled by Defense Department civilians.

Whether they are in uniform or not, if the military doesn’t attract these data scientists, engineers, and coders, it will continue to fall short of its recruiting goals, and more crucially, of its actual needs.

The all-volunteer force of the last 50 years has been able to be selective and set stringent, uniform requirements. There are clear needs for some of these. Pilots must have good eyesight, sailors must be physically able to perform damage control, and so on. However, many of these requirements are more culturally imbued, and limit eligibility to serve. Recent articles have highlighted that only 23% of Americans meet the minimum eligibility requirements to serve due to poor physical fitness, medical disqualification, education, and criminal history. Initiatives to increase the pool of availability are underway across each service. The Air Force and Space Force are allowing waivers for candidates who test positive for THC. The Army’s Future Soldiers Program provides opportunities to those who would not pass the physical or educational requirements. And the Navy raised the maximum enlistment age to 41 years old and is accepting lower scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. The above initiatives by each service are meant to expand that 23% eligibility, but they are still recruiting along the same uniform standards for frontline warfighting jobs. A soldier who was not academically qualified to serve isn’t going to be filling one of the data-scientist roles the Secretaries mentioned. These initiatives may eventually fill recruiters’ quotas, but they won’t answer the services’ critical needs.

Read the full article from Defense One.

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