By C. Todd Lopez
/ Published November 16, 2017
Despite news to the contrary, the Army will not be recruiting bipolar personnel, the Army's chief of staff said here yesterday, even if those individuals apply for a waiver.
"There has been no change in standards," Gen. Mark A. Milley told reporters at a Defense Writers Group breakfast. "The Army hasn't reduced standards or changed standards."
What has changed, Milley said, is where decisions on waivers are made. In 2009, the Army pulled approval authority out of the hands of U.S. Army Recruiting Command and brought it up to Army Department level. In August of this year, that decision authority was pushed back down to USAREC, where it rightly belongs, the general said.
"A decision was made in August to re-empower the commanding general of Recruiting Command with the authority to consider, grant and waive things and approve people in the Army," Milley said. In the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Air Force, he noted, approval authority for waivers sits with equivalent agencies.
Milley parsed out the meaning of the word "consideration" to ensure the definition was clear. He said all services have always considered all waiver requests. "When someone's application comes in and someone's paperwork is filled out, then someone on the Army's side has to physically look at the paperwork," said he explained. "So you always are considering."
Essentially, he said, consideration happens when Army personnel read a waiver. All waiver requests, therefore, are considered, in that all waivers are read.
But, Milley clarified, "considering a waiver is not the same as granting a waiver."
Types of Waivers Disallowed
Milley cited Defense Department policy that outlines what kinds of conduct and mental health waivers cannot be granted. Among waivers that cannot be granted for entry into service are those for:
-- Conviction or adverse adjudication for a sexual offense;
-- Major misconduct involving an adult conviction or adult adverse adjudication, which Milley clarified as an "adult felony";
-- Misconduct or juvenile major misconduct for criminal use of drugs other than marijuana
-- Mood disorders, including major depression, cyclothymia, bipolar and other mood disorders;
-- Drug or alcohol use disorder not in sustained remission (less than 12 months since last occurrence of any diagnostic criterion other than craving);
-- Any overdose of any medication, prescription or over-the-counter, accidental or otherwise;
-- Any condition involving self-mutilation as a means of emotional coping; and
-- Any suicidal attempt or gesture, including ideation with plan.
"Those are the categories," Milley said, where "you aren't coming in the U.S. military."
Quality Trumps Quantity
Milley said Army recruiters have a tough job filling the ranks with new soldiers, and those recruiters have to meet both numbers of new recruits, and quality of new recruits. But quality has to be considered first, he said.
"If you make the numbers, great. That'll be awesome," Milley said he tells recruiters. "But make the standard. There will be no reduction in accessions standard. No change. You will not reduce quality to gain quantity."
Despite a challenging recruiting environment, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel A. Dailey said he thinks Army recruiters will be able to meet their recruiting goals -- even if they have to maintain both Army and DoD standards for new recruits.
"It's a tough task; there are 350 million people in America," Dailey said. "And there is a decreasing population of eligible 18-to-24-year olds. We know that. But I have no doubt that we will be successful in doing that. We demonstrated that last year. We met all DoD thresholds for requirements for our young soldiers. We had one of the best retention years we've had in over a decade in the U.S. Army by retaining very high quality soldiers.
"Numbers are important, end strength is important," Dailey said. "But quality and standards are paramount, and they will not be violated."