Army leaders are considering some big changes to the service's uniform and appearance policies in 2017.

The Army Research Lab has been conducting a compatibility study of protective equipment with facial hair, long hair and head coverings, an ARL spokeswoman confirmed. This includes testing combat helmets this fall at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, with volunteers – male and female – who have hair with more than two inches of volume when tied back.

And as for beards, the Army's top enlisted soldier is open to them.

"From a personal perspective: Am I opposed to it? Not really," Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told Army Times in November. "I think we have to look at it, we have to research on it, we have to be informed by it."

There has to be more study on how a beard would work with protective equipment, and decisions on length and shape, he added.

"But I'm not an anti-beard guy, and neither is the [Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley]. We have this conversation," he said. "But we have to do it for the right reasons."

Meanwhile, Dailey's senior enlisted council is batting around the idea of allowing women to paint their fingernails and wear earrings in the Army Combat Uniform.

The Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force all currently allow nail polish, and all of those except the Marines allow small, stud earrings in their utility uniforms.

"I keep finding a stalemate. I have senior females in my council, and, actually, we defer to them on these things," Dailey said. "What I'm finding is I'm having senior female NCOs tell me no."

While the council is leaning toward a no on earrings, he said, the opposition to nail polish is rooted in having to enforce colors, length and general appearance. 

"Honestly, the reason where we are today is because it got out of control," Dailey said about the current ban on nail polish.

Senior leaders are wary of soldiers taking advantage of the policy again.

"My counter to that is, not all of them," he said. "And I'm not going to base the policies of the Army on those who are undisciplined. Because we, as noncommissioned officers in the Army, should be able to keep that at bay."

Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.

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