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US Army secretary emphasizes that service is ‘not going to lower our standards’ despite recruiting challenges

<i>Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images</i><br/>Army Secretary Christine Wormuth testifies during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Army Secretary Christine Wormuth testifies during a Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Haley Britzky, CNN

(CNN) — The US Army Secretary emphasized Thursday that the service is “not going to lower our standards” despite ongoing challenges with recruiting.

“I think we saw from some of the years in the early 2000s, we lowered some of our standards we gave … what we call moral waivers, we allowed in more people with some misconduct. And that came back to bite us, frankly, in the backside,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said at the Aspen Security Forum. “So Gen. McConville and I have made a pact not to lower standards, we’re going to instead invest in Americans to meet our standards.”

The Army – along with the other military services – is facing substantial challenges to recruit the number of new service members they need. In 2022, the Army missed its recruiting goals by 15,000 new soldiers.

Lawmakers have pressed military leaders on the question of lowering standards to meet their recruiting goals, which service leaders have consistently said they will not do. The question has come up several times in regard to the Army’s new fitness test, which some lawmakers have criticized as easier than the previous test.

Wormuth said Thursday, however, that they would not lower standards because “as we saw in the in the last 20 years of the global war on terrorism, even if you’re a cyber warrior, even if you’re a cook, you may find yourself in combat.”

“The front line is very, very mutable,” she said, “and so I think all of our soldiers, no matter what they do, have to meet some basic fundamental requirements for fitness.”

And while the service is expecting to bring in thousands more recruits this year than they did last year, service leaders have said that they don’t expect to meet their goal of 65,000 new recruits this year.

Wormuth acknowledged Thursday that the goal of 65,000 was “always a stretch goal,” but said that while the Army won’t meet it, they will bring in “more young Americans into the Army than we did last year.”

“So, I think by several thousand, we’re going to do better than we did last year,” she said Thursday. “And that’s positive, but we’ve got more work to do.”

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