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Department of Disqualified: Pentagon Prefers Transgenders to Promising Military Specialists
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Photo: Washington Blade/Michael Key/PrtSc

Department of Disqualified: Pentagon Prefers Transgenders to Promising Military Specialists

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NEW YORK – November 30, 2018

We live in difficult times. The global economy has reached an “epochal pivot,” a moment when the false prosperity created from the trillions in printed money by the world’s central banks lurches violently into reverse.

Throughout its history, mankind has solved such problems through global war. And now the US is drifting towards global war. But what will this war be like? Is the US ready for it? Is there an understanding of where and how the US Army should develop? 

At first glance everything seems good. The US is still the most advanced military power in terms of technical equipment and the ability to solve any problems in any region of the world. If you collect all the land occupied by US military bases (warehouses, airfields, locations, etc.) outside of America, the total population would be equal to that of the state of Pennsylvania. Thus, in fact,the United States has had a 51st state for a long time...

However, the Pentagon is currently experiencing serious problems, and the root of these problems lies in the existing recruitment system. According to the Pentagon in recent years, the number of volunteers who want to serve in the armed forces has dramatically fallen. Last year, just 11% of 16-24-year-olds said they would definitely or probably serve in the military in the coming years — down from 13% in 2016. As a result, there was an acute shortage of officers in the regular army. About 30% of officer positions at the tactical level of management are currently vacant.  There are also huge problems with the recruitment of specialists for the armed forces. 

But despite this, many young Americans who want to join cannot. Startling statistics released by the Pentagon show that 75% of young people aged 17 to 24 are currently unable to enlist in the military and tens of thousands of applicants are medically rejected every year.

Recently, there was an article by Joe Schuman talkingabout his unsuccessful attempts to enlist in the army.

“I started applying to Army Officer Candidate School in October 2015 as a senior at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After seven months of navigating the medical accessions process, I was medically rejected from the Army on account of congenital scoliosis and a medical history of spinal fusion surgeries. Neither my career as a Division III Varsity soccer player nor a letter from my surgeon — a retired Army doctor and chief of orthopedic surgery — noting that I had ‘no limitations whatsoever’ had any impact on my medical evaluation. After switching my application to the Navy the following spring, I was medically rejected again. Finally, after one last medical rejection from the Army National Guard in the summer of 2016, I gave up on my dream of serving my country in uniform,” the author wrote.

Common sense suggests that the staff should be selected on the challenges facing the organization. Everyone agrees, even the military. 

But what exactly does the military want? Judging by the available selection criteria and looking at those who are actively recruited, a very sad picture emerges. Only people with absolute health, the right race, and a deep faith in the ideals of liberalism can serve in the army. The last preposition is mandatory, because if you are a transgender or from the LGBT community, then the other qualifications don’t matter. 

It is fair to say that officials also talk about the need for the candidate's mental health and even claim that about 12% of the candidates are screened for psychiatric criteria, but it is hard to believe, especially when you read the news or watch numerous videos and video blogs with those in the military.

 We often hear about the military’s “brain drain,” from a well-documented dearth of military officers from top universities to the need for applicants with STEM skills, a shortage that former Secretary of Defense Ash Carter sought to address as part of  a comprehensive initiative known as the “Force of the Future.” In the complex security environment defined by rapid technological change described in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, it is likely that the impact of shortages will only be exacerbated.

Given these needs, the military should be going out of its way for applicants from top universities or with STEM skills. And while there are some promising initiatives, including an Army effort to directly commission and provide recruitment bonuses to cyber warriors, the overly restrictive medical accessions process is preventing countless similar applicants from joining military service.

In his paper, Joe Schuman cites several real-world cases of applicants being rejected. “I have met a number of applicants with similar stories. A classmate at MIT, studying computer science, was medically rejected after having completed his first year of Reserve Officer Training Corps, forcing him to pay back his first year’s tuition scholarship in full. Why? Because of a minor tree nut allergy. I have a coworker who has multiple degrees from Stanford, on top of being a Rose Bowl Champion football player, who was rejected from military service on account of mild sleep apnea that is easily remedied with a mouth guard,” he writes.

Thousands of highly qualified applicants are rejected each year for medical conditions that may not impact their ability to serve. Incredibly, despite its self-described needs, the military does not know how many such applicants are rejected each year, nor does it fairly evaluate most of the applicants it does reject. 

In 2012, according to the Department of Defense’s Accession Medical Standards Analysis & Research Activity (AMSARA) Annual Report, 38,000 of 200,000 active duty applicants (or 19%) across all military services were medically disqualified from serving. If disqualified, it is possible to apply for a waiver, but it is generally the recruiter’s decision. Yet recruiters are neither medical professionals nor are they empowered to evaluate an applicant holistically, weighing their talents and background against their medical condition. 

Such a holistic evaluation is the intent of the waiver process, but three-quarters of disqualified applicants never apply for one or, more commonly, they are never allowed to apply. In 2012, less than half of disqualified applicants (18,000 out of 38,000) applied for a waiver.  Similar trends existed between 2010 and 2015 (the lastyear for which AMSARA data is available) and acrossthe Reserve and National Guard components. 

According to AMSARA, the top conditions for active duty medical disqualification from 2010-2014 were weight/body build (17%), psychiatric (12%), refraction (11%), and skin/allergies (9%). 

Do these conditions hinder effective service? It’spossible. But in order to meet the tasks to be solved it is necessary to determine the criteria of effectiveness. But this is exactly where the problem lies. In addition, many of the reasons for medical disqualification are quite treatable. For example, weight can be lost or gained. Vision can be cured, allergies can be dealt withby establishing a diet, and so on. But anyway, we believe that priority must be given to the skills and abilities of the candidate and his ability to carry out the tasks assigned to him. As for ongoing psychiatric conditions, they should be taken seriously, but even symptoms or outpatient treatment of depression within three years of applying for military service is disqualifying, according to the Department of Defense’s Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction regulations. 

We don’t want to argue that the military should give up its strict medical and physical standards entirely. Given the unique mission and demands that the military puts on servicemembers, these standards are necessary for many roles. But out of the 30,000+ applicants across all services and components who are medically disqualified each year without an appeal for a waiver, there are many who would provide tremendous value to the military despite their medical conditions — applicants who are “worth the risk.” These applicants should not be waived for certain physically demanding military occupations (Army and Marine Corps infantry, Air Force pilot) or career tracks (special operations), but have much to offer in other career fields (engineering, logistics, intelligence, cyber) where their medical histories will not have an impact on their job performance. Unfortunately, medical standards are not eased for these less physically demanding positions.

The rigidity of the military’s standards is particularly self-defeating when it comes to the disqualification of top-tier applicants and applicants with STEM skills. How many disqualified applicants might fall into these categories? The Department of Defense cannot even begin to answer this question. And that, too, is part of the problem. 

In the section “The Procrustean Bed: The Military Personnel System,” a Force of the Future report describes how the military services were unable to identify or even define top talent when asked by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. The report proposes that the military services start to capture, record, and employ the unique background and skills of their forces, especially Reserve and National Guard troops, who may have special expertise from their civilian jobs. 

Given the Defense Department’s limited internal talent management capacity, it seems unlikely that the department will attempt to understand the talent of accepted applicants, let alone rejected ones, in the foreseeable future. Thus, thousands of applicants each year will continue to be medically rejected without applying for a waiver. And the Defense Department will continue not to know what it is missing.

This problem is not unique to the US. It exists in almost all countries, and the reason for it is that legislative frameworks don’t meet the needs of today. War today is not a war of muscle and manpower. It is a war of brains and technology. A frail or fat computer genius will cause the enemy immeasurably more damage than a company of jocks, even though all of them would be transgender. 

Meanwhile the Pentagon is taking some time to consider whether to change the laws and regulations on the criteria for the selection of candidates. There is some movement on the political and ideological fronts: Women, gays and transsexuals are increasingly attracted to the army, but we do not think these are the changes that should be made first of all. If this goes on, the US risks losing being the strongest military power in the world to countries that have already taken steps to adapt their legislation to the requirements of modernity, such as Russia and China, and at the same time losing it claims to world leadership.

We propose creating an “assisted accessions process” for shepherding these applicants through the bureaucratic and often dysfunctional accessions process. Eligible applicants could be evaluated by a number of factors, including undergraduate university, grade point average, military aptitude test score, and/or physical fitness test score. If the military requires more recruits with a certain background — computer science, for example — applicants with skills in these fields could be flagged for the assisted accessions process. 

The system would give select applicants access to senior military leaders and medical professionals, who would evaluate the applicant holistically, weighing the talent they bring to the military against the risk that their medical history presents.

Author: USA Really