Two senators are asking other lawmakers on Capitol Hill to support a push to pause implementation of the new Army Combat Fitness Test, which they say sets unrealistic standards for some soldiers.
Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand and Richard Blumenthal wrote a letter to House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders Tuesday, asking them to keep a measure in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would halt the rollout of the long-awaited ACFT. Military.com obtained a copy of the letter, which was first reported on by The Washington Post.
Gillibrand, of New York, and Blumenthal, of Connecticut, say an independent study is needed to examine whether the test is fair to both men and women. They also say the ACFT lowers standards for young male soldiers while setting unrealistic requirements for those serving in fields with few physical demands, such as medical personnel, judge advocates or cyber warriors.
Read Next: Marine 2-Star Under Investigation for Racial Slur Has Been Relieved of Command
“Since the Department of the Army has initiated the new Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT), significant concerns have been raised regarding the data used to develop the test, initial test scores, and logistical issues,” the letter states. “The ACFT will determine the career path and success of all soldiers currently serving, yet many information gaps and unknowns remain.”
Army officials did not respond to questions about the letter. Units were authorized to begin taking the ACFT on Oct. 1 after the test was delayed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The scores soldiers receive on the new test won’t count until 2022, however, and will be for data collection only.
Still, Gillibrand and Blumenthal say the ACFT rollout is “premature.” They point to gender and age gaps in the Baseline Soldier Physical Readiness Requirements Study, which the Army conducted to identify fitness requirements that best measure demands of combat.
“The average participant was 24 years old and male,” the letter states. “During Phase II, only 14.3% of test participants were female, and in Phase III, only 10.5% of participants were female. This is not even representative of the total Army force.”
And while the study determined the leg tuck is not a “significant predictive variable,” the letter adds, it was still chosen to be one of the ACFT’s six events. The leg tuck leads to the most test failures, they wrote, yet the Army “has failed to show [it] has any nexus to the skills necessary for combat.”
“It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered,” the senators said. “Soldiers’ careers depend on it and the continued lethality of our force requires it.”
Last year, slides leaked on social media showing female soldiers were failing the ACFT at much higher rates than men. About a third of male soldiers were failing the test at the time, while 84% of women were failing.
Maj. Gen. Lonnie Hibbard, commander of the Center for Initial Military Training, told Military.com shortly after the leak
Oct. 21 (UPI) — Two senators said Wednesday they have called for a delay in implementing the U.S. Army’s Combat Fitness Test, citing a possible detriment to creating a diverse force.
A letter signed by Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., sent a letter to the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees warning that rollout of the revised test was premature and deserved additional study.
“Significant concerns have been raised regarding the data used to develop the test, initial test scores, and logistical issues,” the senators wrote. “The ACFT will determine the career path and success of all soldiers currently serving, yet many information gaps and unknowns remain.”
It suggested that the ACFT could adversely impact soldiers’ professional prospects, upset recruitment efforts and disproportionally affect women in the Army, and noted that few women were included in early testing groups.
“In 2019, the Army identified the six events of the ACFT and began conducting field tests within 63 battalions across the organization,” the senators wrote. “Preliminary data was leaked showing an overall failure rate of 84 percent for females and 30 percent for males within these battalions.”
The test is an attempt by the Army to establish effective but gender-neutral standards for soldiers’ fitness and readiness, and replaces Army previous fitness tests which clearly displayed a bias but were less rigorous.
Six events are involved in the new test, including a dead lift, weighted ball throw and a “leg tuck,” in which soldiers lift themselves up from a pullup bar using their arm, core and leg muscles.
The leg tuck is largely responsible for the 65 percent failure rate for women and the 10 percent failure rate for men.
The letter from Gillibrand and Blumenthal cited a University of Iowa study that showing that the removal of the leg-tuck could significantly improve success rates. The letter said the leg tuck is “the same event which has no proven predictive value to military occupation.”
It also noted that the previously used Army Physical Fitness Test required no equipment other than a stopwatch, while “the ACFT requires approximately $3,000 worth of equipment to put one individual through the test.”
Gillibrand and Blumenthal added that the test is irrelevant, and possibly damaging, to the careers of Army lawyers, cybersecurity specialists and other non-combat enlistees.
The senators recommend that the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act include a provision allowing Congress to delay use of the ACFT until it is independently reviewed.
By John Revill
ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland announced tighter restrictions on Sunday to tackle the second wave of the coronavirus hitting the country, including a nation-wide obligation to wear masks and a ban on large scale public gatherings.
Gatherings of more than 15 people in public places will be banned from Monday and masks must be worn in all indoor public places, the government announced following an extraordinary meeting.
An order to wear masks on public transport has been extended to cover train stations, airports, bus and tram stops, the government said, replacing a patchwork of regulations which applied across Switzerland’s different regions.
The obligation to wear a mask will also apply to shops, banks, churches, and cinemas, the government said. It recommended people work from home if they can.
“The COVID-19 infection rate has increased at a very quick rate,” Swiss president Simonetta Sommaruga told reporters at a press conference in Bern. “Unlike before it is affecting all cantons and all age groups.
“With winter coming it is very important to slow the spread of the virus now. Every day counts.”
Switzerland, a country of 8.6 million people, on Friday reported the highest daily number of infections since the COVID-19 crisis began, with 3,105 new cases.
So far 74,422 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus, and 1,823 people have died.
Sommaruga said the government was prepared to impose more drastic restrictions if the new ones did not work.
No time limit has been set for how long the measures – designed to safeguard both the population and the economy – will remain in place, she added.
Health Minister Alain Berset confirmed the second wave of the coronavirus had now materialised.
“I can say that over the last 10 days, the second wave is here… It has come rather earlier and stronger than we thought, but we are prepared for the situation.”
(Reporting by John Revill; Editing by Alexandra Hudson)