Less than a week after it began, Army Recruiting Command has paused a controversial accessions program that allowed prospective soldiers with high qualification test scores to enlist without a high school diploma or equivalency, according to documents obtained by Army Times and an Army official.
Command officials sent out an urgent email Wednesday morning informing recruiters of the change. A source provided the email to Army Times.
“The 111 Non-Grad (NA) enlistment program has been suspended. Those...who have enlisted are authorized to ship [to training],” the email said. “Any other [non-grads] projected for enlistment today are authorized to enlist, but all other projection MUST be cancelled immediately. No exceptions are authorized.”
An Army official speaking on background confirmed the program was suspended, but noted the education waivers are within the service’s authorities and could be reinstated in the future. The official said the suspension had “more to do with ensuring that we set the recruits...up for success” rather than “perception of a lowered standard” to join.
The official characterized the move as a pause, saying that “the most important thing is to ensure it’s the right option, and we take the time to think through the right options to ensure everybody has the chance to be successful.”
The education waivers were contingent upon an applicant scoring higher than a 50 overall on the Armed Forces Qualification Test — a score that places in top 50% of those who take the standardized test. Troops without a completed high school education still had to earn a GED during their first contract to reenlist.
The move came amid a recruiting crisis for the military — none of the services except the Marine Corps are on track to meet their active duty enlisted recruiting goals for this fiscal year, according to NBC News.
An Army spokesperson said last week that the service has only met 40% of its enlisted accessions goal this fiscal year, despite a mid-year cut to the Army’s end strength target that was intended to ensure the service didn’t have to sacrifice quality for quantity.
It’s not clear how many applicants without diplomas or GEDs were able to successfully enlist this week.
Although the service plans to begin granting more waivers to high school-educated applicants who don’t meet the minimum AFQT score of 31, according to an Army official familiar with the plan, the education requirement waivers — which required strong test scores — were met with skepticism and mockery from some observers.
Whatever the reason for the change, it certainly blindsided hopeful applicants without high school educations who had jumped at the prospect of enlisting when they learned of the waivers.
Most were unable to finish enlisting before it ended.
One such applicant posted on Reddit, sharing how he had quickly obtained new copies of vital documents in order to apply. He scored a 58 on the AFQT Thursday, he said, but his recruiter was waiting outside the testing room door to inform him of the program’s suspension.
“I do not believe it will be up again,” the user said of the program, dejected. “[RIP].”
Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army. He focuses on investigations, personnel concerns and military justice. Davis, also a Guard veteran, was a finalist in the 2023 Livingston Awards for his work with The Texas Tribune investigating the National Guard's border missions. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill.