- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter spoke on “Force of the Future” military reforms this week that may involve relaxed recruiting rules on everything from single-parent enlistees to drug use and obesity.

A Tuesday event at City College of New York featured Mr. Carter speaking on the challenges of recruitment in a nation that is fatter, increasingly at ease with smoking marijuana, and producing more single-parent homes. The result has been a fighting force that is gleaned from rural areas at twice the rate of urban environments.

“We’re going to review and update these standards as appropriate,” Mr Carter said, Military Times reported. “Now, some of these things we’ll never be able to compromise on. And we will always have to maintain high standards. But at the same time, these benchmarks must be kept relevant for both today’s force and tomorrow’s, meaning we have to ensure they’re not unnecessarily restrictive.”

The secretary also used the event to announce a $140 million ad campaign aimed towards increasing recruitment among young people and boosting ROTC programs.

“Geographically, our military’s recruiting pool is shrinking, with more and more of our people coming from fewer and fewer states,” Mr. Carter said. “Today young Americans from rural areas are two times more likely to join the military than young Americans from urban areas. We would be missing an opportunity if we kept fishing only in the same geographic ponds we always have. Instead, we need to seize that opportunity by fishing in more ponds, new ponds, and ponds we haven’t been to in a long time. We have to draw talent from our country’s entire pool of population for our all-volunteer force.”

A senior defense official spoke to the defense website to assuage concerns about upcoming “Force of the Future” reforms.

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“[Mr. Carter] is not saying ‘it doesn’t matter how overweight somebody is,’ because it does matter,” the official told Military Times. “Fitness does matter in the service. But one of the responsibilities that we have when we bring people in is to make them fit, if they are not already. We have to judge whether, if we have [an individual with] a fitness problem, is it a fitness problem in which they are not going to be able to achieve our standards? Or is it a fitness problem where we can help them through it and they can meet our standards?

“[The secretary] isn’t committed to overturning these standards because each one of them has a reason,” the official said. “We are going to look at them systematically and evaluate them against our needs and make sure we’re as flexible as we need to be so we can get the best possible force in.”

• Douglas Ernst can be reached at dernst@washingtontimes.com.

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