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Joining the US Military is Getting Harder

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Updated April 25, 2010

If you've been planning on joining one of the branches of the US Military, but have been putting it off, you may have lost your chance.

For the past sevveral months, all of the active duty and reserve branches have exceeded their recruiting goals.

Waivers are Getting Rare

Up until three or so years ago, enlistment waivers were relatively common, especially for the Army. The services would routinely waive disqualification factors, such as criminal history, minimum ASVAB scores, and even age to meet their monthly recruiting goals. Three years ago, about 20 percent of new Army enlistees had a GED instead of a high school diploma, and the Army even operated a special course to help potential enlistees get a GED.

Those days seem to be gone. Very few waivers are now being approved. Why should the military take a chance on a waiver, when there are hundreds of applicants, waiting in line to join, who don't need one?

I had one active duty Army recruiting tell me that he needs to enlist only one of three applicants who walk in his door in order to meet his monthly recruiting goal. So, why should he go through the extra time and paperwork to process a waiver request?

These days, if you don't meet the set enlistment standards, your chances of getting a waiver are slim.

Recruiting Goals

Congress funds the military, and -- as such -- sets the maximum size of each military branch each year when they approve the annual military budget.

Four years ago, Congress increased the size of the active duty Army and Marine Corps. That caused a short-term spike in Army and Marine Corps recruiting and retention goals, but both services are currently up to their maximum authorized strength levels. The "spike" is over. Both branches easily met their new size requirements, years ahead of schedule.

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