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Pentagon Chief Proposes Relaxing Enlistment Standards

Defense Secretary Ash Carter suggested that the military could do more to attract high-tech talent by loosening its rules on who can join.
Image: Ash Carter
Secretary of Defense Ash Carter speaks during a news conference at Camp David Presidential retreat, on Monday, March 23, 2015, in Camp David, Md. Evan Vucci / AP file
/ Source: NBC News

The U.S. military is considering easing some enlistment standards to attract more recruits into high-tech and cybersecurity posts, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday.

Carter, speaking to students at his former high school in suburban Philadelphia, said the armed forces needed to be more flexible in order to recruit and retain quality people, and to compete with corporate America.

Among the measures Carter mentioned were to loosen age requirements in order to attract more people in the middle of their careers, and to offer student-loan repayments to make the military a viable option for students just out of college.

In his speech to more than 1,000 students at Abington Senior High outside Philadelphia, Carter said the military has to work harder to compete for highly skilled graduates.

"Because we too often talk about sacrifice alone, which is no small thing, we probably don't spend enough time highlighting the opportunities that exist and the fulfillment one has from achieving excellence and doing it in service to your country," said Carter, a member of Abington's class of 1972. "No one should gloss over the hardships or the dangers of military life, but I do want you to understand how fulfilling and rewarding military life can be also."

\While her offered few details, Carter's proposal could be considered revolutionary to the military's rigid mindset. It could also reignite a debate about the service's approach to waivers for recruits who have committed minor crimes, behaved badly, are older than current regulations allow or have other physical issues that prevent them from joining the military.

Later, at Fort Drum, New York, Carter told 10th Mountain Division soldiers that he knows they have many choices as they consider future jobs.

"Are we able to compete, are we able to keep up?" he asked the division soldiers, some of whom were preparing to deploy to southern Afghanistan.

Specifically, he pointed to cyber jobs as an area where standards could be relaxed. Military leaders have long complained that it is difficult to attract and keep cyber professionals in the services because they can make far more money in private industry.



—The Associated Press