addition to providing information to the prospective enlistee,
recruiters determine an applicant's eligibility for military service.
They ask questions regarding age, citizenship, education, involvement
with the law, use of drugs, and physical and medical conditions
that could preclude enlistment. Most prospects take an aptitude
screening test at a recruiting office. Estimates are that 10
to 20 percent of prospects do not continue beyond this point. 
Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. Prospects
who meet initial qualifications take the ASVAB, the first formal
step in the process of applying to enlist in the Armed Forces.
The ASVAB is a battery of tests used by DoD to determine enlistment
eligibility and qualifications for military occupations. It consists
of 10 tests, four of which comprise the Armed Forces Qualification
Test (AFQT): Arithmetic Reasoning, Mathematics Knowledge, Word
Knowledge, and Paragraph Comprehension. The AFQT, a general measure
of trainability and predictor of on-the-job performance, is the
primary index of recruit aptitude.
scores, expressed on a percentile scale, reflect an applicant's
standing relative to the national population of men and women
1823 years of age.  The scores are grouped into five
categories based on the percentile score ranges shown in Table
2.1. Persons who score in Categories I and II tend to be above
average in trainability; those in Category III, average; those
in Category IV, below average; and those in Category V, markedly
below average. By law, Category V applicants and those in Category
IV who have not graduated from high school are not eligible for
enlistment. Over and above these legal restrictions, each Service
prescribes its own aptitude and education criteria for eligibility.
Each Service uses combinations of ASVAB test scores to determine
an applicant's aptitude and eligibility for different military
DoD implemented a three-tier classification of education credentials
in 1987. The three tiers are:
Tier 1Regular high school graduates, adult diploma holders,
and non-graduates with at least 15 hours of college credit.
Tier 2Alternative credential holders, including those with
a General Education Development (GED) certificate of high school
Tier 3Those with no education credentials.
2.1. Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) Categories
and Corresponding Percentile Score Ranges
Percentile Score Range
was developed after research indicated a strong relationship between
education credentials and successful completion of the first term
of military service.
Current research continues to show that education attainment
of youth predicts first-term military attrition.
In conjunction with the National Academy of Sciences, the
Defense Department developed a mathematical model that links recruit
quality and recruiting resources to job performance. The model
was then used to establish the recruit quality benchmarks now
specified in Defense Planning Guidance. Service programs are
required to ensure that a minimum of 90 percent of non-prior service
(NPS) recruits are high school diploma graduates. At least 60
percent of recruits must be drawn from AFQT Categories IIIIA;
no more than 4 percent of the recruits can come from Category
IV. This DoD policy does not prohibit the Services from setting
their own targets above these benchmarks. These benchmarks were
set by examining the relationship between costs associated with
recruiting, training, attrition, and retention using as a standard
the performance level obtained by the reference cohort of 1990,
the cohort that served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert
Storm. Thus, these benchmarks reflect the recruit quality levels
necessary to minimize personnel and training costs while maintaining
Desert Shield/Desert Storm cohort performance.
have different standards for individuals in each tier. Generally,
Tier 3 applicants must have higher AFQT test scores than Tier
2 applicants, who must have higher test scores than Tier 1 individuals.
The Air Force and Marine Corps follow these differential standards,
requiring different minimum test scores for each tier. The other
Services apply the standards slightly differently. The Army and
Navy require applicants with alternative credentials (Tier 2)
and those with no credentials (Tier 3) to meet the same AFQT standards,
which are more stringent than those for high school graduates
With the proliferation
of alternative credential programs, particularly home schooling,
the Department of Defense initiated a pilot study in FY 1999The
Alternative Educational Credential Pilot Program. The goals of
the project are: (1) to assess the interest in enlistment of
home school graduates and participants earning GED certificates
through the National Guard ChalleNGe program, and (2) to evaluate
the performance of the alternative credential holders in these
programs who do enlist. At the conclusion of the study, the results
will be used to provide a recommendation on permanent tier status
of home school graduates and ChalleNGe GED applicants.
If an applicant achieves qualifying ASVAB scores and wants to
continue the application process, he or she is scheduled for a
physical examination and background review at a Military Entrance
Processing Station (MEPS). The examination assesses physical
fitness for military service. It includes measurement of blood
pressure, pulse, visual acuity, and hearing; blood testing and
urinalysis; drug and HIV testing; and medical history. Some Services
also require tests of strength and endurance. If a correctable
or temporary medical problem is detected, the applicant may be
required to get treatment before proceeding. Other applicants
may require a Service waiver of some disqualifying medical conditions
before being allowed to enlist.
Character Standards. Each applicant must meet rigorous
moral character standards. In addition to the initial screening
by the recruiter, an interview covering each applicant's background
is conducted at the MEPS. For some individuals, a financial credit
check and/or a computerized search for a criminal record is conducted.
Some types of criminal activity are clearly disqualifying; other
cases require a waiver, wherein the Service examines the applicant's
circumstances and makes an individual determination of qualification.
Moreover, applicants with existing financial problems are not
likely to overcome those difficulties on junior enlisted pay.
Consequently, credit histories may be considered as part of the
If the applicant's ASVAB scores, educational credentials, physical
fitness, and moral character qualify for entry, he or she meets
with a Service classification counselor at the MEPS to discuss
options for enlistment. Up to this point, the applicant has made
no commitment. The counselor has the record of the applicant's
qualifications and computerized information on available Service
training/skill openings, schedules, and enlistment incentives.
can sign up for a specific skill or for a broad occupational area
(such as the mechanical or electronics areas). In the Army, all
recruits enter for specific skill training. Approximately 60
percent of Air Force recruits enter for a specific skill, while
the rest sign up for an occupational area and are classified into
a specific skill while in basic training. In the Navy, approximately
70 percent of recruits enlist for a specific skill, while the
rest go directly to the fleet after basic training, classified
in airman, fireman, or seaman programs. Approximately 85 percent
of Marine Corps enlistees enter with a guaranteed occupational
area and are assigned a specific skill within that area after
recruit training; the rest enlist with either a specific job guarantee
or assignment to a job after recruit training.
an applicant will be shown a number of occupations. In general,
the higher the individual's test scores, the more choices he or
she will have. While the process differs by Service, specific
skills and occupational groupings are arranged similarly to an
airline reservation system, with the "seat" and time
of travel (to recruit training) based upon either school or field
unit position openings. The counselor discusses the applicant's
interests and explains what the Service has to offer. The counselor
may suggest incentives to encourage the applicant to choose hard-to-fill
occupational specialties. The applicant, however, is free to
accept or reject the offer.
applicants do not decide immediately, but take time to discuss
options with family and friends; others decide not to enlist.
A review of the enlistment decision process indicates that the
military continues to compete with civilian employment and educational
opportunities even after the prospect has completed the application
stage of the enlistment process.
Delayed Entry Program (DEP).
When the applicant accepts an offer, he or she signs an enlistment
contract. Only a small proportion of new enlistees is sent to
a recruit training center from the MEPS within a month of enlistment.
Most enter the delayed entry program (DEP), which allows up to
a year before the individual reports for duty, with up to a 365-day
extension upon approval by the respective Service Secretary.
The DEP controls recruit flow into training "seats"
at technical schools. Average time in the DEP is about four months.
high school students may enlist in the DEP with a reporting date
after graduation; their enlistment contract is contingent upon
successfully completing high school. Not all DEP enlistees actually
enter active duty. By Service, an average of 15 to 24 percentup
from last years 11 to 19 percentof individuals in
the DEP changed their minds and asked to be released from their
enlistment contracts in FY 1999. The Services consider enlistment
in the DEP a serious commitment, but they do not require youth
to enter military service against their will during peacetime.
B.K., Laurence, J.H., and Camara, W.J., Personnel Enlistment and
Classification Procedures in the U.S. Military (Washington, DC:
National Academy Press, 1987), p. 12.
The score scale is based on a 1980 study, the Profile of
American Youth, conducted by DoD in cooperation with the Department
of Labor (DoL). Participants were drawn from a nationally representative
sample of young men and women selected for an ongoing DoL study,
the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Labor Force Behavior.
An effort is currently underway to update the Profile of American
See Flyer, E.S., Factors Relating to Discharge for Unsuitability
Among 1956 Airman Accessions to the Air Force (Lackland AFB, TX:
Personnel Research Laboratory, December 1959); and Elster, R.E.
and Flyer, E.S., A Study of the Relationship Between Educational
Credentials and Military Performance Criteria (Monterey, CA: Naval
Postgraduate School, July 1981).
 For attrition by education credential, see Department
of Defense, Educational Enlistment Standards: Recruiting Equity
for GED Certificates, Report to Congress (Washington, DC: Office
of the Assistant Secretary of Defense [Force Management Policy],
April 1996); Department of Defense, Review of Minimum Active Enlisted
Recruit Quality Benchmarks: Do They Remain Valid? Report to
Congress (Washington, DC: Office of the Assistant Secretary of
Defense [Force Management Policy], March 2000); and Laurence,
J.H., Does Education Credential Still Predict Attrition?, paper
presented as part of Symposium, Everything Old is New AgainCurrent
Research Issues in Accession Policy, at the 105th Annual Convention
of the American Psychological Association, Chicago, August 1997.
Sellman, W.S., Public Policy Implications for Military
Entrance Standards, Keynote Address presented at the 39th
Annual Conference of the International Military Testing Association,
Sydney, Australia, October 1998.
 Statement of Honorable Alphonso Maldon, Jr., Assistant
Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy) before the Personnel
Subcommittee, Senate Committee on Armed Services on Military Recruiting
and Retention, February 24, 2000.
Orvis, B.R. and Gahart, M.T., Enlistment Among Applicants
for Military Service: Determinants and Incentives (Santa Monica,
CA: RAND Corporation, 1990), p. vii.
 10 U.S.C. 513, as amended October 1999.