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ASVAB Game Changer

Military re-writes regulations to control damage and create new recruiting opportunities


The recent changes made by the US Military Entrance Processing Command to Regulation 601-4, Personnel Procurement Student Testing Program, are very significant to the work many of us have been carrying on for years.  Although the DOD’s Student Testing Program is complicated and understood by small numbers of activists, it represents a massive and egregious violation of civil liberties.

At first glance it seemed our activism had resulted in a victory, but upon closer examination, it’s apparent the military is adjusting its strategy to a changing landscape for greater advantage.

The Pentagon runs the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery Career Exploration Program (ASVAB-CEP) in 14,000 high schools across the country. The recruiting command is able to give its 3-hour enlistment test to 650,000 kids every year by deceptively shrouding it within a “Career Exploration Program”, which they say helps kids figure out what they want to do when they grow up. Actually, recruiters capture data on the cognitive abilities of the kids, along with their social security numbers and detailed demographic information.  The primary purpose of the ASVAB-CEP, according the military regulations, is to create leads for recruiters.


Until now, school officials were expected to be proactive in communicating to the Recruiting Command whether they wanted to make the test results available to be used for recruiting purposes. Guidance counselors were to select one of eight release options for their kids taking the test. See Table 3-1:

Table 3-1
Recruiter Release Options  -  Instructions for providing access to student test information to recruiting services

Provide student test information to recruiting services no sooner than 7 days after mailed to School
Provide student test information to recruiting services no sooner than 60 days after mailed to School
Provide student test information to recruiting services no sooner than 90 days after mailed to School
Provide student test information to recruiting services no sooner than 120 days after mailed to School
Provide student test information to recruiting services no sooner than the end of the SY for that specific school
Provide student test information to recruiting services no sooner than 7 days after mailed to school with instruction that no telephone solicitation by recruiters will be conducted as a result of test information provided
Invalid test results. Student test information is not provided to recruiting services
Access to student test information is not provided to recruiting services

Options 1-6 basically say the same thing. Recruiters get the data.  Option 7 is rarely used; it’s for when there’s some sort of goof up.  Option 8 says the military cannot use test results for recruiting purposes.  

Eight years ago approximately 1-2% of the kids taking the test had Option 8 selected. Since then, the percent has risen to 15% with three entire states and 2,000 schools moving to select Option 8. Most schools, school boards, and state legislatures across the country were unaware that release options existed until we told them. Option 1 was made the default selection if a guidance counselor failed to contact the Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) to express the school’s desire to select a particular option. We don’t have any data for the last 2 years but we think there may be significant movement in our favor across the country.  We filed a FOIA request that is taking forever to receive.  Rep Hoyer (D-MD) has recently contacted the DOD on our behalf.  


          Here’s the recent change to Section 3-2 on Release Options,
Only a school official will select the recruiter release option for their students. If an option isn’t selected, the MEPS must contact the school to determine the release option. If no option is received from the school, the test will be scored using Option 8 (no release). Release options are provided in Table 3-1 (Recruiter release options). The release option chosen by the school will be honored without discrimination and without adverse effect of quality or priority of service to the school. All MEPS scheduling communications with schools will include a listing of all release options.

At first blush this seems like a victory for us, however, after deeper analysis and dialogue, it’s apparent the recruiting command has launched into a damage control mode by creating new opportunities for itself.  “If no option is provided by the school the test will be scored using Option 8” actually sounds like the military took a progressive step forward, but the second part about scheduling communications with schools, including a listing of all release options, suggests the command is going after all those Option 8 schools to get them to switch to Options 1-6.   If MEPS representatives can’t talk a school into moving from Option 8, they may suggest the school allow for a split option. That means some of the kids will be allowed to take the ASVAB under Option 8 and some under Options 1-6.

An example of this strategy may be found in the recent change to Chancellor’s Regulation A-825 in New York City. For years, the city’s schools had selected Option 8 for its students who took the ASVAB.  If a student wanted to use her scores for enlistment purposes, she was required to visit with a recruiter to sign a form. (or her parents if she’s under 18)
Now, schools in the city where the military gives the ASVAB are required to send home written notification in advance of the test to the parents of each student scheduled to take the ASVAB.  The form asks parents if it’s OK to release results to recruiters.

Counselors across the country are already overwhelmed with their workload and this new military regulation will add to it. Counseling staff will be required to keep track of the notifications and sort students accordingly.  Counselors will be subject to blame and litigation we hope to engender if results are forwarded to recruiting services from a child whose parents did not authorize consent.


The recruiting command has launched into damage control by creating new opportunities for itself.  We must do the same.  We have our work cut out for us.  We need to communicate with 14,000 schools to let them know they'll be contacted by recruiters who will sell them on selecting Option 1-6.  We must convince them to protect the privacy of their students by selecting Release Option 8.


Pat Elder is the Director of the National Coalition to Protect Student Privacy

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