U.S. Army Recruiting Command Statement on Waivers
U.S. Army Public Affairs [revised Jul 10, 2007]
U.S. Army Enlistment Waivers: Fact Sheet
Historically, the Army issues waivers to some otherwise qualified applicants who do not meet all our stringent medical, moral, aptitude or administrative requirements.
Due to those high standards, only 3 of 10 American men between 17 and 24 years old are fully qualified for service in the Army. We are a reflection American society and the changes that affect it: today’s young men and women are more overweight, have a greater incidence of asthma, and are being charged for offenses that in earlier years wouldn’t have been considered a serious offense, and might not have resulted in charges in the first place. Criminal laws also vary from state to state.
Considering offering a waiver to otherwise qualified recruits is the right thing to do for those Americans who want to answer the Call to Duty. And it is the right thing to do for America. And the metrics we monitor are evidence that this is indeed the right thing to do for America's Army. And indicators of recruit quality, such as indiscipline rates and first term attrition are stable or dropping. There should not be a concern about the Soldiers who are enlisting.
Potential enlistees, who may not meet the letter of our stringent enlistment regulation, can demonstrate that they make up for that in other ways. America does not want a rigid, unthinking bureaucracy running their Army—that clearly is not how wars are won.
If an applicant is offered the opportunity for a waiver, the burden remains on them to prove that their acceptance would be in the best interests of the Army. Commanders at all levels then gather documents and waiver request information, question, investigate, counsel, and, finally, apply the "whole person" concept before approving any waiver.
Moral waivers are required in cases where any applicant presents themselves for enlistment in the Army and meet the following thresholds: Four or more minor non-traffic offenses (examples: Curfew violations, littering, disorderly conduct, etc.); or two but not more than four misdemeanor offenses were committed (examples: larceny less than $500, vandalism, trespassing).
In most cases we see, the charges were from a period of time when the applicant was young and immature. We look at the recent history such as employment, schooling, references and signs of remorse and changed behavior since the incident occurred as part of the waiver process.
Furthermore, there are permanent nonwaiverable offenses which we will never provide a waiver. These include: convictions for sexually violent offenses, alcoholism, drug dependency and trafficking, sale or distribution of drugs. Moreover, we do not allow enlistment of anyone who is pending a criminal charge, on probation, on parole, in confinement or who in lieu of or a result of being prosecuted has been ordered by a court to enlist. The Army does not rehabilitate enlistees who receive waivers; they have already overcome their mistakes.
Serious misconduct, including felony criminal charges, is any misconduct serious enough to warrant review by a general officer. While “serious misconduct” conjures up a vision of a person who served prison time for a serious or violent crime, the truth is that the vast majority are juvenile offenses that result in a fine or unsupervised probationary periods. In many cases the charges are eventually dismissed after such probationary periods—but the Army does not recognize dismissal after the fact.
For example, we see applicants with offenses such as arson, burglary, aggravated assault, breaking and entering, possession of marijuana, or 2 DUI's that we certainly consider serious, but, upon closer inspection, the age and circumstances of the charges certainly do not rise to the level that most Americans would consider a true "felony." Actual cases in point:
• 15 year old while trying to "smoke out" bees in a hive accidentally sets the hive on fire and, in turn, the house close to the tree is damaged. Police charge him with arson...he is now 22 years old with no other record, yet he is counted in the serious misconduct category.
• 12 year old breaks into his neighbor’s shed. He takes a bike; is arrested and charged with B & E and theft. Is now 23 years old, no other charges ... requires a Serious criminal misconduct waiver.
• Applicant was charged with 2 DUI's. One was actually age 17 (under age drinking) even though not at the DUI threshold, the court charged him with a DUI, has another at age 19. Is now 37 years old, no other record ... yet he required a serious misconduct waiver.
• Two kids get into a school fight at age 14, the police charge both of them with aggravated assault with intent to commit bodily harm (used shoe to kick the other one) and was charged with use of a deadly weapon (shoe), the applicant is now 18 and has no other charges, yet we must list as a felon. Does one year probation, then charges are dismissed (Probation Before Judgment is commonly used in states like Maryland to allow a "no record for juvenile cases). However, we still require a waiver of such an offense.
• In college, applicant experiments with marijuana twice (age 19 and 20), is now 29 years old. Waiver categorized as serious misconduct since a general officer is required to approve.