United States senators are asking to suspend implementation of the Army’s new fitness test.
According to The Washington Post, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) wrote an Oct. 20 letter to the House and Senate Armed Services committees, saying that implementation of the new Army Combat Fitness Test is “premature.”
“We have considerable concerns regarding the negative impact [the test] may already be having on so many careers,” the letter reads, according to The Post. “It is imperative that we pause implementation until all questions and concerns are answered. Soldiers’ careers depend on it and the continued lethality of our force requires it.”
While the Army is transitioning to the new test this year, it won’t affect evaluations until 2022 at the earliest. Members of the Army are encouraged to train for the new test, but there are currently no averse actions if they fail.
The senators want to suspend rollout of the test until an independent study is conducted, which was a provision in the Senate-passed version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, but not the House version.
The Post reported that soldiers have taken the new test on a provisional basis for 18 months, with 54 percent of women and seven percent of men failing the test. The new test places a higher emphasis on strength than the previous one, which included push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run. Now, the test consists of six events, including a dead lift, weighted ball throw and a leg tuck in which people must use their arm, core and leg muscles to pull themselves up from a pullup bar. Individuals can replace the leg tuck with a two-minute plank while the test is being finalized.
“We support advances in the Army physical fitness program and policies that promote the equal treatment of male and female soldiers," Gillibrand and Blumenthal said in the letter. "However, the ACFT as it currently stands, lowers standards and expectations for young, male soldiers while setting unrealistic standards for others including those with fewer physical responsibilities such as medical personnel, judge advocates, or cyber warriors.”
Related content: Army Officially Implements New Combat Fitness Test
According to the Army Times, a University of Iowa study found that removing the leg tuck would significantly reduce failure rates.
“The Army has failed to show that the leg tuck has any nexus to the skills necessary for combat,” the letter reads. “While the ACFT 2.0 provides the option for a two-minute plank as an alternative to the leg tuck, the Army has reiterated this is only a temporary option. Furthermore, only 60 points will be issued for the two-minute plank, greatly reducing the participant’s overall score."
Army officials had announced in June that all active National Guard and Reserve units would be cleared to take the ACFT on Oct. 1, ending a six-month suspension of fitness testing amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Related content: How the Army Kept Soldiers Fit During the Pandemic