Recruiting leaders said they are moving forward with an expectation that tattoo rules will be tightened. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
When might you see new grooming regulations? It may be this week. Or it may be this month. Then again, maybe not.
And the message from Army leadership is clear: We’ll tell you when we are good and ready.
Changes to Army Regulation 670-1 have been in the works for more than two years.
Army Times in early November asked basic questions on behalf of frustrated soldiers.
■ When were the recommended changes presented to the Army chief of staff and the Army secretary?
■ When is a decision expected?
■ Why has there been such a delay between submission and decision?
■ What factors are Army leadership considering before making a decision?
■ Have any other factors contributed to the duration between submission and decision? If so, what are they?
■ How much weight have leaders given to soldier preference on these matters?
■ Is leadership concerned that any of these new rules might adversely affect recruiting or retention? If so, which ones?
The non-answer, which came weeks later, restated the obvious: “The Army is conducting final review of the forthcoming uniform policy — Army Regulation 670-1 [the total policy applying to the wear and appearance of the Army uniform] prior to its implementation.”
Sergeant Major of the Army Raymond Chandler, who has championed the changes, has been far more accommodating in his efforts and answers.
“We’ll have a new one out shortly,” he said. “I can’t give you a date. I have talked to the secretary of the Army. Once he makes his decision, we’ll get it to the field. … I’m going to say in the next few months. I’ve said that for almost a year now, and I still get beaten up by your readers about when it’s going to come out.”
The new regulations are a pressing issue for a number of reasons. The existing rules cover uniforms that no longer exist, such as battle dress uniforms and the green Army Service Uniform. Updates and changes are included in more than 40 different All-Army Activities messages, or ALARACTs, which will be consolidated into one new regulation.
Troops also are eager to know what the new rules will entail. Some want the Army to return to a professional force and expect the new regs to crack down on makeup, shaving, sideburns, tattoos and cellphone use. Others are concerned the rules will be too tight.
Shorter sideburns and the possible requirement to shave even when on leave have not set well with many soldiers. And tattoo restrictions have taken on a life of their own.
Army Times learned that officials took a second look at how tattoo regs would affect recruiting. Recruiting leaders said they are moving forward with an expectation that tattoo rules will be tightened. And more than a half-dozen recruiters said it will not be difficult to find qualified recruits in this tight economy. The fiscal 2013 goal was hit a month early, and the bounty has poured into this year.
Still, these second and third looks have prolonged the effort.
“I want to see it published. And I know that our soldiers do, too,” Chandler said.
He said it takes time and a number of people to do the review.
“Anywhere from [Program Executive Office] Soldier, which is actually the one that gets the uniform made, to the Army G-4, supply, to legal folks to ensure that the words are written in the correct way so there is not some legal issue surrounding interpretation, to the senior leaders who are going to ask questions and trying to understand the impact, to United States Army Recruiting Command on what these changes mean to our ability to recruit — it’s pretty big,” Chandler said, “and you really gotta ask and answer those questions because you know if you make that decision here, it will have a huge impact that we didn’t understand unless we really spend the time to do it.”
The proposal has been on the Army secretary’s desk for at least two months. The Army will not say when it was submitted, what has caused the delay or what actions he has taken.
“We tried to take an approach that was feasible, affordable and reasonable for both our soldiers and the Department of the Army. So I’m pretty satisfied for where it will go,” Chandler said. “We just [have] got to get the secretary to approve. And he has asked for the meeting, so I suspect we will answer his questions and be ready to move forward.”