Military raises standards, issues fewer waivers as recruitment goals take backseat


If you’ve been planning to join the United States military, you’d better cut out the extra calories and tattoo shop visits. The armed forces has raised its standards and is looking for more than able-bodied recruits.

Since 2011, the military has been cutting back on recruitment goals, mostly due to drawdowns in Iraq, as well as budget reductions, said Andrew Wade, Center Commander of the Army recruiting site in St. Louis Park.

Wade also said one way the military has raised its standards is by issuing fewer waivers to serve.

A waiver to serve allows someone who would be otherwise disqualified from military service due to anything from a felony conviction to a weight problem. The military decides how many waivers to issue and who receives them.

According to the New York Times, the number of waivers issued to Army recruits with felony convictions more than doubled – from 249 to 511 – from 2006 to 2007, during the height of the Iraq war.

But in past years, the amount of waivers has decreased dramatically, with misconduct waivers – issued for behavioral issues such as misdemeanors – decreasing from 546 in 2009 to 189 in 2011.

Courtney Gorder is glad the military is becoming more careful about who they allow to serve.

The 18-year-old from St. Louis Park, who enlisted in the Navy this spring, said the increasing rarity of waivers makes her feel safer.

“From what I’ve read, there’s a lot of sexual abuse of women in the military,” Gorder said. “I feel like if we’re not hiring people with behavior issues, sexual abuse would happen less.”

During 2007, the number of waivers issued by the Army to people who had committed rape, sexual assault or sexual abuse increased to five from two in 2006, the Times reported. There was also one waiver issued in 2007 for kidnapping or abduction, up from zero in 2006, and two issued for indecent acts with a child or molestation, up from one.

Wade said the changes in standards include lowering the maximum eligible age from 41 to 35 years old and rejecting more potential recruits who do not have a traditional high school diploma.

He said these cutbacks have helped increase the quality of the armed forces.

“As a result of the smaller pool of training slots, we’ve been able to raise our standards to make sure we get the most qualified applicants,” Wade said. “We are establishing a base of discipline and moral values.”