The U.S. army, in need of new and qualified soldiers, is reaching deeper into their pockets offering millions in bonuses and made the process more lenient to permit marijuana use. According to General Jefferey Snow, recruiting commander, the army will achieve its goal of 80,000 new soldiers without sacrificing the quality of the soldiers. The demand for new soldiers stems from the Obama administration to downsize the military as Congress takes steps to reverse the change.

If the Army, which is the largest of the US armed forces, continues to restrict accepting soldiers with lower qualifications the Army will not face the same issues it did during the mid-2000s, according to Beth Asch, an expert on military recruiting. In 2005, as long, hazardous deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan became common, the Pentagon relaxed standards for recruits who had fared poorly on standard military exams. Those who scored in the lower third of the tests, so-called Category Four recruits, had been limited to 2% of new troops. The standard was relaxed to 4% and was exceeded at times.

The risk of accepting soldiers with lower qualifications was emphasized by an incident back in 2006. An Iraqi girl was raped and killed along with her family by soldiers, one which needed waivers to join the Army for minor criminal activity and poor educational background. Smarter soldiers historically are better fighters according to RAND. Studies have shown that soldiers that had scored higher on military tests were more effective in destroying the enemy.

Over the last year, the active-duty Army’s enrolled almost 69,000 soldiers with 1.9% belonged to category four a .6% from 2016. The Pentagon orders that Army accept no more than 4% of recruiting classes from Category Four. The lowest figure was seen 2013 when it dropped to .2% According to Snow, throughout the year the Army needs a constant enrollment of recruits. By accepting more recruits from Category Four, especially during the slow winter months, it keeps the seats for the basic and advanced training classes full.
“We made a conscious decision to bring in some more Category 4 soldiers during the months that it is most difficult for us to meet the training seat requirement,” Snow said.

Forgiving prior marijuana use

By granting the services increased flexibility in accepting recruits or recruits that have admitted smoking marijuana Asch believe it will save money without hindering the ability to fight. Last year, the Army spent $424 million on bonuses for recruits alone. That’s a major increase from the $284 million in the fiscal year 2016.

Approving more waivers to the recruits who admit to smoking marijuana prior to enrollment indicates its legal status in the twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia. A two-star officer was once permitted to grant the waiver in previous years. Now, it has been assigned to the level of a lieutenant colonel during the fiscal year of 2017 when 506 waivers were granted compared to 191 waivers in the previous year.

“The big thing we’re looking for is a pattern of misconduct where they’re going to have a problem with authority,” Snow said. “Smoking marijuana in an isolated incident as a teenager is not a pattern of misconduct.”

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