The Army is tossing its mandate for potential recruits to have a high school diploma or GED certificate to enlist in the service, in one of the most dramatic moves yet in the escalating recruiting crisis hitting the entire Defense Department.
On Thursday, the service announced that individuals may enlist without those previously required education certifications if they ship to basic training this fiscal year, which ends Oct. 1.
Recruits must also be at least 18 years old and otherwise qualify for a job in the active-duty Army. They also must score at least a 50 on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, or ASVAB, an SAT-style quiz to measure a potential recruit's academic ability.
A 50 on the test is a relatively low score, with 31 being the minimum to qualify for service. Combat arms jobs such as infantrymen and cavalry scouts need only minimal scores to serve, while admin work such as a human resources specialist or public affairs require scores of 100 or higher.
Previously, the Army would allow people to enlist if they hadn't finished high school yet at the age of 17 with parental consent. Those recruits typically wouldn't ship to basic training until they completed school.
The change follows another shift in policy this week when the service relaxed its tattoo rules, allowing potential recruits to enlist with tattoos on their hands and neck, which previously needed waivers.
The Army and its sister services have scrambled this year, offering increasingly generous benefits and policy tweaks in an effort to improve recruiting numbers. The Army has hit 40% of its recruiting goals this year, with the struggle to fill the ranks seemingly so grim the Defense Department reduced its planned total force size because prior recruiting goals were out of reach.
Those challenges come amid a low unemployment rate and a competitive civilian job market, with employers offering increased wages and benefits even for entry-level jobs.
-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.