The plan to revise the Army’s fitness test gets the backing of House lawmakers

House lawmakers on Wednesday supported plans to review Army suitability standards for troops in combat work, mirroring plans adopted by senators last week that could reverse how services test troops to make sure that are prepared for the rigors of the battlefield.

The proposal, included in the House Armed Services Committee’s markup of the annual defense clearance bill, calls on the Secretary of the Army to “establish gender-neutral fitness standards for military combat professional specialties that are superior to those for non-combat MOS. “

Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee approved similar language in the draft permit bill last week. Both committee votes were passed with bipartisan support, despite objections from some Democratic leaders.

“It goes without saying that a 100-pound artillery shell or a 150-pound backpack or a 200-pound soldier that needs to be moved up a hill is different from using a keyboard,” said the Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., During the committee debate on Wednesday.

“Ultimately, it is about the standards that all Americans who want to serve this country must meet in order to win wars. The jobs are different and therefore they should have different standards ”.

The provision represents the second reprimand in a week for Army leaders, who have spent the past few years modifying their eligibility test in response to earlier criticism that events were excessively tiring for service members in support roles. .

Army officials launched their revised Army combat fitness test in March, following an independent congressional-ordered review of the test’s shortcomings. All active duty component troops and full-time reserve troops will have the new test tally this fall and part-time reserve and guard troops will test for the record starting next April.

The current ACFT is reduced to its predecessor, which was specifically designed as an age- and gender-neutral test with different standards depending on whether a soldier’s job requires “heavy”, “significant” or “moderate” physical exertion.

After a large number of women were unable to meet those minimum requirements, the military changed events and created a new scoring system with different standards for age and gender, changing its message to describe the ACFT. as a high fitness test rather than a readiness rating.

But lawmakers said the result was too broad a suitability test and not adequately preparing soldiers for potential battlefield demands.

The language included in the permit bill would require both the development of a new test for “combat MOS,” but also that service officials better define what those jobs are and who should be held to the highest fitness standards.

The language of the report accompanying the draft Senate clearance bill goes beyond the Army eligibility test to include further review by all services in their requirements. The senators included language that required the Defense Department to submit a list of close combat jobs and briefings to Congress on the physical requirements for them.

This could force changes between services in the future, although the proposals for now only apply to the controversial army test.

The move would apparently support the March Department of Defense leadership directing services to ensure their fitness programs “meet job-specific and operationally relevant physical requirements for physically demanding career fields.”

The Army has job-specific eligibility standards currently in its Professional Physical Assessment Test, or OPAT, but are considered essential minimums for initial entry into career fields.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, Washington, led opposition to the move, arguing that Army officials “know more than our committee about what standards are needed to meet their requirements.”

“That basically takes away that flexibility anyway,” he said.

But for now, both chambers seem intent on forcing a change in the test.

Both chambers will have to adopt their own separate versions of the draft permits before they can start negotiations on a compromise measure. That work should extend into the fall.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs, and the White House for military times. He has been in Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans’ policies. His work has garnered numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.

Davis Winkie is a senior military journalist specializing in accountability reporting, personnel matters and military justice. He joined the Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a dissertation on how the Cold War-era Department of Defense influenced Hollywood films. of the Second World War.