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Pentagon May Ease Enlistment Standards 03/30 06:24

   Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering easing some military enlistment 
standards as part of a broader set of initiatives to better attract and keep 
quality service members and civilians across the Defense Department.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter is considering easing some 
military enlistment standards as part of a broader set of initiatives to better 
attract and keep quality service members and civilians across the Defense 
Department.

   While there are few details yet, Carter is exploring whether to adjust some 
of the requirements for certain military jobs, such as those involving cyber or 
high-tech expertise.

   The idea, which is largely in line with many civilian sectors, upends the 
military's more rigid mindset that puts a high value on standards. And it 
reignites a persistent debate about how the services approve waivers for 
recruits who have committed lesser crimes, behaved badly, are older than 
current regulations allow or have other physical issues that prevent them from 
joining the military.

   According to Pentagon documents and officials, the secretary sees 
recruitment and retention as major challenges to a military coming out of two 
wars and facing turmoil around the world.

   Specifically, the Pentagon pointed to cyber jobs as an area where standards 
--- such as age or minor drug offenses --- could be relaxed. Military leaders 
have long complained that it is difficult to attract and keep cyber 
professionals in the services because they can make far more money in private 
industry.

   This is not the first time, however, that the services looked to reduced 
restrictions as a way to entice more recruits.

   During 2006-2007, the military steadily increased the number of bad behavior 
waivers as the services --- particularly the Army and Marine Corps --- 
struggled to meet deployment demands in Iraq and Afghanistan. The services let 
in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions, 
in order to meet recruiting quotas.

   And in some cases, the services relaxed age restrictions, allowing older 
people to enlist or rejoin the military.

   But as the wars dragged on and suicides, sexual assaults and other bad 
behavior by service members spiked, military leaders began to question whether 
there was a link to the decline in enlistment standards during the wartime peak.

   Carter also is considering other changes to help ensure that the military 
attracts the best and brightest, including programs to pay off student debt, 
improvements to the retirement, promotion and evaluation systems and doing more 
to allow sabbaticals for service members.

   There has been much discussion lately about allowing service members to 
participate in 401k-type programs because as much as 80 percent of the people 
who enlist don't stay in long enough to earn retirement benefits.

   Carter is expected to begin discussing his plans to build a better 21st 
century force during several stops Monday and Tuesday in Pennsylvania and New 
York.

   He will first visit his high school --- Abington Senior High --- outside of 
Philadelphia, where he will talk to students about military and public service. 
Carter will then travel to Fort Drum, New York, home of the Army's storied 10th 
Mountain Division, where he will meet with troops.

   Brigades from the 10th Mountain Division served as anchor units in eastern 
Afghanistan for much of the war, particularly during the early years when the 
U.S. had only a smaller force there. For many years they rotated with brigades 
from the 82nd Airborne.

   And on Tuesday, he will visit Syracuse University's Institute for Veterans 
and Military Families.

   The Defense Department has launched a partnership with the institute and the 
Schultz Family Foundation for a program called Onward to Opportunity, which 
will provide industry-specific training and job placement assistance for 
service members and their spouses as the troops leave the military.


(KA)


 
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