ARLINGTON, Va. — Defense officials stressed Tuesday that the quality of recruits remains high, even though more Army recruits are being accepted under waivers and fewer have high school diplomas, statistics show.

Each branch of the active-duty military met or exceeded its fiscal 2006 recruiting goal, including the Army, which missed its fiscal 2005 goal by about 7,000 soldiers, according to the Defense Department.

The Army reported about 80,600 recruits for fiscal 2006, or 101 percent of its goal.

For fiscal 2006, about 13,600 Army recruits were issued waivers for moral, medical or drug and alcohol issues, up from about 11,500 from the previous fiscal year, according to statistics provided by the Army.

Of those waivers, 55 percent were for moral character reasons, the majority of which were for misdemeanor offenses — such as curfew violations and drinking under age — the statistics show. In contrast, 47 percent of the waivers issued in fiscal 2005 were for moral character reasons.

David S.C. Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, said the recruiting standards for each branch of the service remain unchanged.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Chu explained that the services issue waivers for a number of reasons.

“Young people may have failings: physical failings, failings in terms of excessive debt, [and] failings in terms of brushes with the law. As a generalization, the services want to look at the whole person and ask, ‘Is this serious? Is this a real bar to what might be otherwise a successful period of service?’” Chu said.

Also Tuesday, Maj. Gen. Thomas Bostick, head of Army recruiting, said he was not concerned at all with the quality of the U.S. Army.

Bostick said the Army met all the quality standards for recruiting set by the Defense Secretary except one: high school diplomas.

“The goal on high school diploma graduates is 90 percent, we achieved 81 percent. The 19 percent, the others have a GED, some form of equivalency degree,” Bostick said.

In fiscal 2005, 87 percent of Army recruits had high school diplomas, statistics show.

About 99 percent of Air Force recruits are high school graduates, said Brig. Gen. Suzanne Vautrinot, head of Air Force recruiting, who spoke with Stars and Stripes earlier on Tuesday.

She also said less than 1 percent of Air Force recruits score in the lowest acceptable range on aptitude tests; that group constitutes 3.8 percent of Army recruits, Army statistics show.

Vautrinot said the Air Force cannot accept higher numbers of low-scoring recruits, as the Army has, because test scores indicate how well recruits will do in the Air Force’s technical training, which is “very expensive.”

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