The Army is suspending education requirements for potential recruits, saying a high school diploma or GED is no longer required before a new soldier can head to basic training.
The move comes as the Department of Defense is facing its most daunting enlistment challenge in years.
Joining the Army without a high school diploma has been an option in past years but only on a limited basis.
“Opening this category for a limited time will enable the U.S. Army to offer a path to service to a wider group of highly qualified applicants, allowing them to serve the nation,” Army officials said in a statement to The Washington Times.
The new policy means potential recruits who didn’t graduate high school due to “uncontrollable circumstances,” such as working to provide for the family or caring for a family member with health problems, won’t be considered ineligible for service because they lack a diploma, Army officials said.
The new policy won’t cover the Army Reserve or National Guard.
While the military has been offering financial inducements to enlist, in some cases up to $50,000, no extra incentives will be offered to those who join without a high school diploma.
The Pentagon is struggling to overcome a number of recruiting challenges, ranging from obesity and past drug use on the part of potential recruits to competition from the civilian sector, which can offer more money.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville recently testified before Congress that fewer than a quarter of eligible Americans are even qualified to enlist without a waiver.
NBC News reported that only 9% of those eligible to serve had any intention to do so, citing an internal Defense Department survey.