Pentagon Chief Ashton Carter spoke to students at a Philadelphia high school Monday and announced the upcoming relaxing of enlistment standards aimed at improving the quality of recruits. Among the changes will be consideration of hiring older people, mostly for high-tech or cybersecurtiy jobs, and allowing recruits who have a criminal history of some drug offenses.
This administration does not support strict drug laws, particularly when it concerns marijuana.
In 2006, relaxed standards meant hiring recruits with criminal records. That might be the reason bad behavior reports have increased according to some military leaders.
The Associated Press reported that it opens up the 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.
The AP reported that in 2006 – 2007, the military increased bad behavior waivers. In order to meet recruiting quotas, they let in more recruits with criminal records, including some with felony convictions.
The increase in the numbers of suicides, sexual assaults and other bad behavior reports could be a direct result of the relaxed standards from 2006.
Carter is considering additional changes to improve the quality of recruits by adding programs to pay off student debt, retirement improvements, allowing sabbaticals and so on.
“Because we too often talk about sacrifice alone, which is no small thing, we probably don’t spend enough time highlighting the opportunities that exist and the fulfillment one has from achieving excellence and doing it in service to your country,” said Carter, a member of Abington’s class of 1972. “No one should gloss over the hardships or the dangers of military life, but I do want you to understand how fulfilling and rewarding military life can be also.”
Carter also alluded to his lack of military service, telling students, “You don’t have to join the military service to serve your country, I didn’t.”
But he said “the military, and public service as a whole is worthy of your respect, worthy of your support and worth of your consideration.”
Rep. Ryan Zinke has reservations.
Rep. Zinke, a retired Navy SEAL, thinks the changes in cybersecurity and age requirements could be advantageous, however, “things like criminal records, things that would have disqualified you before, we have to be very, very careful,” Zinke said, “…every member is critical in that force.”
He added, “To have a standard that isn’t as strong isn’t the way we should go.”