Too many recruits these days lack not only physical fitness, but mental fitness, as well, the Army's top recruiting general told reporters on Thursday.
While much has been said about the obesity epidemic among America's youth, Maj. Gen. Allen Batschelet said the inability of potential recruits to clear the ASVAB test is of more concern.
Recruits' scores on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery have slid in recent years, he said at a media roundtable.
Roughly only three out of every 10 Americans in their prime recruiting years qualitfy to the join the Army. Obesity is still the bulk of the problem, Batschelet said. However, it's easier to help a soldier make weight than improve his smarts.
"It takes significantly more time to address. It's more worrisome for me, at least from my perspective," Batschelet said.
The Department of Defense and Secretary of the Army mandate that no more than 4 percent of enlistees score in Category IV (10th to 30th percentile) and no more than 40 percent score lower than Category IIIA (50th percentile or higher).
A number of factors come into play regarding the score, and Batschelet said isolating the problem can be difficult. The score hasn't been re-calibrated since 2004, so Batschelet isn't ruling out changes to the way success is measured.
The improving economy has also lowered the unemployment rate somewhat, perhaps leaving fewer qualified individuals needing to consider a military option.
Batschelet also talked about improving recruitment despite budget cuts that have left fewer resources with which to reach candidates. He said the Army has worked with service and veteran organizations to increase reach, and to promote the profession and the importance of a qualified all-volunteer force.
In Fiscal Year 2013, the active Army hit its recruiting goal; Reserve came in at 77 percent of its mission.