The U.S. Army’s chief of Training and Doctrine Command, Gen. William S. Wallace, claims that lower recruitment standards have not affected the quality of America’s troops. His remarks came in a Feb. 28 speech to the Association of the U.S. Army and in an interview with the Army Times.
The Army routinely gives waivers to recruits whose medical conditions or criminal records would otherwise prohibit their service. In recent years, the waiver rate has more than doubled, up to 21 percent in 2007. Wallace said of the waivers:
As long as it’s measured and as long as it’s under control and as long as it’s reasonable and seen as giving a young kid a second chance, then I think it’s a reasonable thing to do.
In FY 07, Wallace said that the Army accepted 9,935 recruits guilty of misdemeanors and 598 convicted felons. Another 1,492 had a history of drug and alcohol use. Wallace said, “I know that those who have received waivers have had no higher incidence of misconduct or indiscipline once they’re in the military than those who have been allowed in without waivers.”
But misconduct and indiscipline are not the only potential problems. The National Priorities Project revealed that the percentage of recruits with high-school diplomas has dropped to its lowest rate in more than a quarter century. The percentage of “high-quality” recruits — high-school graduates who score in the top 50 percent on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) — has dropped from 61 percent in 2004 to 45 percent in 2007.
According to a Rand report, “high-quality” recruits perform better on the battlefield and complete their missions more often, for everyone from tank gunners to communications specialists. Having fewer “high-quality” recruits not only hurts military performance, it also costs money.
Remember that Wallace is also the official who, shortly, after the invasion of Iraq, offered this explanation for why Saddam Hussein did not defend himself with WMDs:
One theory is that we moved so fast that they couldn’t get their hands on it to employ it… because they were so clever in disguising that and burying it so deep, that they themselves had a problem getting to them.
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