The U.S. Army announced a new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) to determine physical readiness to serve on the battlefield. The big change in the test is that it now applies two standards, one for men and a different one for women.
The test went into use on Friday and scores will not impact a soldier’s service record until October 1. The Army will not immediately discharge soldiers who cannot pass the test, and National Guard and Reserve members will have until April of next year to pass before failing scores are entered into their record.
The ACFT uses a group of exercises to evaluate soldiers including a deadlift, a power throw, hand release pushups, carries, and a two-mile run. The official purpose of the test has also been changed. It is no longer intended to prepare soldiers for actual combat any longer but is intended to be a measurement of general physical fitness.
The test now imposes different standards for men and women and assesses age groups differently. The changes follow recommendations from the Rand Corporation, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., which found that almost half of the women in the Army could not meet the formerly universal standards of the ACFT.
Among other changes, women have a minimum two-mile run time more than a minute longer than that for men. The time for men has also been increased by a minute, as the Army found that the run was the event most often failed by soldiers of both sexes.
While the Army has always maintained difficult physical training standards in the past to ensure that America’s fighting force is up to the tasks it is given on the battlefield. Today’s testing seems to be interested in other things. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that the Secretary of Defense has spoken clearly about the Army’s need to “promote diversity and inclusion seriously.”
In the Air Force, Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel, and Services Gewndolyn DeFillippi said that new teams have given the service a “better understanding” of the barriers to the enhancement of “diversity and inclusion.” She touted the creation of the service’s new Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning Initiative Team (LITJ) and the Indigenous Nations Equality Team (INET) as examples of that effort.
Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of Defense for Human Capital and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Bishop Garrison said that he hopes that members of the armed services will see the latest efforts at diversity, equity, and inclusion as a “force multiplier.”
While Joe Biden’s armed services might not be the world’s most combat-fit, they are on their way to being the most diverse and inclusive. It is unclear to many how that will help the country defend itself in war.