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House lawmakers on Wednesday backed plans to overhaul Army fitness standards for troops in combat jobs, mirroring plans adopted by senators last week that could upend how the services test troops to ensure they are prepared for the rigors of the battlefield.
The proposal, included in the House Armed Services’ Committee markup of the annual defense authorization bill, calls for the secretary of the Army to “establish gender-neutral fitness standards for combat Military Occupational Specialties that are higher than those for non-combat MOSs.”
Members of the Senate Armed Services Committee approved similar language in their authorization bill draft last week. Both committee votes were approved with bipartisan support, despite objections from some Democratic leaders.
“It is obvious that a 100-pound artillery shell or a 150-pound rucksack or a 200-pound soldier that has to be moved to the top of a hill is different than using a keyboard,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Mike Waltz, R-Fla., during committee debate Wednesday.
“At the end of the day, this is about the standards that all Americans who want to serve this country need to meet to win wars. The jobs are different, and therefore they should have different standards.”
The provision represents the second rebuke in a week for Army leaders, who have spent the last several years tweaking their fitness test in response to previous criticism that the events were overly strenuous for service members in support roles.
Army officials launched their revised Army Combat Fitness Test in March, following an independent review ordered by Congress into shortcomings with the test. All active duty and full-time reserve component troops will have the new test count this fall, and part-time Reserve and Guard troops will take the test for record beginning next April.
The current ACFT is pared down from its predecessor, which was specifically designed as an age- and gender-neutral test with different standards based on whether a soldier’s job requires “heavy,” “significant” or “moderate” physical effort.
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