January 24, 2007

The Army eases its IQ standards least

Glaivester points toward a Mother Jones chart showing how much the U.S. Army has relaxed its standards for new recruits due to Iraq. For example, the percentage of high school dropouts has increased from 10% to 19%. Maximum age of new enlistees has been boosted from 34 to 42, maximum body fat for a 20 year old male from 24% to 30%, maximum enlistment bonus from $20k to $40k, and you can now have tattoos visible while in uniform.

What's striking, however, is how little the Army has eased up on "Caps on GIs with substandard aptitude test scores:" (i.e., scoring below the 30th percentile on the military's very heavily g-loaded IQ admission test, the AFQT). This limit has been raised only from 2% to 4%.

In other words, the military, which has 90 years of experience evaluating the correlation between IQ and performance, is extremely reluctant to do the single easiest thing to help its recruiting woes: let in more people with IQs below the 30th percentile. And yet, we constantly hear in the press about how IQ is discredited, or is only relevant in academia, etc etc.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer


Anonymous said...

IQ is a matter of life or death in the military. Handing an idiot a M-16 with a 40mm grenade launcher attached to it is an accident waiting to happen.

Anonymous said...

Back in the early 90s, when I was 18, I decided to join the Army Reserves. I was given the ASVAB and scored in the 99th percentile. In spite of being a college student, a high school grad, having no criminal record, and being in reasonably good shape, I ultimately was barred for what were seemingly minor medical reasons.

A few years later I took a job in Colorado Springs (a major military town), and ended up living there there for over 6 years. While I lived there it seemed hardly a week went by without one soldier or airman (or even cadet) getting his name in the paper for committing a crime.

The modern military seems more obsessed with obtaining physically perfect specimens than it does with obtaining good soldiers, and I think the results are starting to show.

SFG said...

Maybe it wasn't minor medical reasons at all: maybe it was *because* you scored in the ASVAB 99th percentile! Just because a low IQ is bad for soldiering (which is undoubtedly the case) doesn't mean a very high IQ is good. Smart people tend to have their own ideas about everything, since experience has taught them that when they disagree with everyone they're often right. You can see why this is bad in the army.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the military, I was just reading the bio of General David Petraeus, the new boss in Iraq. It notes that he has two children - a son and a daughter. Having read the bios of several other general officers, it seems that, while all of them are married, most of them have relatively small families - 2 kids usually, 3 at the most.

The military is supposed to be the most traditional, high testosterone career you can pick. What does it say to our enemies that all of our generals are having so few kids?

JSBolton said...

Instead of giving residency to illegals and other foreigners who enlist, and incurring costs of potentially tens of thousands a year per enlistee to the net taxpayer, once they sponsor their relatives; why not spend much less?
They could offer items with a one time cost of thousands, and get much better, smarter and more patriotic types.
They could offer things to 17-year-olds, so that liberal parents could exercise their veto.
For those who are too fat, it could be one of those operations which allow weight reduction.
For those with glasses, an operation.
For those who are too thin, a supply of creatinine and a gym membership.
For those with skin or teeth problems, a supply of medications or dental work.
Teens would sign for enlistment a year later and consider that very remote compared to the importance to them, of avoiding social mortification today, over some condition which can be fixed soon and which would then improve their image. A promise of that kind has a binding quality which other employers cannot possess.

Anonymous said...

...the single easiest thing to help its recruiting woes: let in more people with IQs below the 30th percentile.

I guess there are two ways of looking at this: 1) it would depend on the profile of heretofore rejected applicants, i.e. people who actually expressed a concrete interest in joining up (but were found ineligible for one reason or another, e.g. here an unacceptably low AFQT result), or 2) this step, i.e. relaxing the test result requirement, would open up the largest pool of potential recruits.

Your observation seems to pertain to #2, and in that sense is probably true -- the pool of potential recruits would be most increased by this step. Although off the top of my head I do not have the data to be absolutely sure, e.g. regarding increasing the age, and it is unclear what an increase in the bonus money might do.

Given the current Iraq mess, it stands to reason that you'd either have to offer a big bonus to compensate for the risk and apparent senselessness of it, or go after the really dumb.

Anonymous said...

Well, the people who have been to Iraq, who are better educated and more intelligent than than their cohort on average, think Iraq is worth doing.

Those who think that high intelligence is bad in the military should take a look at the SAT scores it takes to get into a service academy.

Niles said...

SFG said...
Maybe it wasn't minor medical reasons at all: maybe it was *because* you scored in the ASVAB 99th percentile! Just because a low IQ is bad for soldiering (which is undoubtedly the case) doesn't mean a very high IQ is good. Smart people tend to have their own ideas about everything, since experience has taught them that when they disagree with everyone they're often right. You can see why this is bad in the army.
What a load of rubbish. I was a direct enlistee 18D back in 1986 and scored a 99 on the ASVAB. However those who scored less than 50 were not pursued by the recruiters and indeed picket fence profiles (all 1's) were preferred (I needed a vision waiver (profile 2) for my particular MOS).

Anonymous said...

"What a load of rubbish."

I agree. My closest friend is a 1500+ SAT type guy, a hacker really, and he enlisted in the army after dropping out of college. They eventually convinced him to go to West Point, but he was a super high IQ grunt for a while.

He did a tour in Iraq though and did not think it was worth doing.

Anonymous said...

I don't think that lowering the IQ bar would necessarily help the military's recruiting efforts. In fact it could just as easily hurt them. The military already has a reputation for recruiting dumb recruits (somewhat true), and lowering the accepted scores would only serve to solidify that reputation.

When illegal aliens/minorities move into a particular profession it sends a message to everyone else: "Get out of that profession!" Native-born Americans then exit in droves, because a market signal has been sent that wages and working conditions will fall.

The same could happen with the military: if intelligent high school grads start to see the military as the place where dumb people go, they won't want to go there. In high school I never, ever considered the military, because that's where the dead-end kids went. It wasn't until college, after seeing a lot of smart, patriotic guys who were in the ROTC, that I decided to try the Reserves (and got rejected).
And as someone else pointed out, who wants to be standing next to a high school dropout with an M249 in his hands?

The military needs more recruits, and it needs smarter recruits. To that end, the best thing they could do is raise the pay, improve the way they treat servicemen and ex-servicemen (esp. wounded vets), and fight like hell to keep the neo-cons who got us into Iraq from imposing their "foreign legion" idea. To get smarter recruits, it probably should also increase the self-improvement options for active duty soldiers and sharpen its focus on recruiting college students into the Guard and Reserves.

Anonymous said...

I and several friends of mine got into the military easy with 99%s on the ASVAB. There's just no chance the military has an unofficial policy against high IQs. For one thing, that totally ignores how recruitment works. Recruiters have quotas and they are judged by how they meet those quotas and a policy has to be darn-well official before it gets in the way of a recruiter getting you to take the oath.


Simon Oliver Lockwood said...

Anon 2(1/24/2007 7:52 PM): I think it was the fact that you were trying to enlist in the early 90s that caused the "minor medical reasons" to disqualify you.

During the early 90s the Army (and its Reserve components) was being reduced by hundreds of thousands of troops in its post-Cold War adjustment. It was being cut from 18 to 10 divisions. Furthermore, some of those troops who were being forced out of the active component were trying to find places in the reserves. If the local reserve units were full, it makes perfect sense that the recruiters were instructed to accept only those who met absolutely all the physical requirements.

CatCube said...

I think that the issue with "minor physical problems" holding more weight that your outstanding ASVAB score is that, quite frankly, most junior enlisted and officer jobs and schools are simply not that hard, academically.

Most Soldiers aren't dumb (though I can't deny that there are some out there and those of us in the head shed at my unit training new Soldiers get to see a lot of them) and very few people get rolled from class because of test scores. The majority of failures and people chaptered out of the Army are for physical reasons, such as medical issues or because they can't pass a PT test. That's why the Army cares more about your physical profile when recruiting.

Tom said...

Er, wait a second. They're allowing the number of mentally subnormal people in the military to *double*?

And you think it's good that they're only doubling it?

As for your argument about IQs and the military, I'd commend to your attention the extremely poor performance of the military in the last five years, from their complete failure to defend our country on 9/11, to their failure to catch Bin Laden, their failure to finish the war in Afghanistan and of course their failure to win the war in Iraq, a country with less than 2% of US military might at its might.

With such a dismal record, you'd be well advised not to use the military recruiting system as an example. Certainly, this record is why they are reduced to taking fat, old, uneducated morons (er, sorry, 42-year olds, high-school dropouts, people with 30% body fat and substandard aptitude scores).