Army officials say the service is not expected to make additional changes to its Combat Fitness Test despite a congressional law built into last year’s defense authorization bill that would establish gender-neutral physical fitness standards.
The 2023 defense authorization bill, which passed in December, directed the service to implement the same fitness standards for both men and women by June 2023. The new standards, according to the bill, would “ensure soldiers can perform the duties of their respective military occupational specialties.”
But after updates to the Army Combat Fitness Test last October, the service is reportedly not expected to make any more alterations. The Office of the Chief of Public Affairs for the Army did not respond to request for comment on the matter. Military.com was the first to report on the decision.
Last month, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth told lawmakers during a Senate Armed Service Committee hearing that the Army had already set gender-neutral standards. Wormuth did not, however, specify what standards she was referring to.
“The language in the bill talks about gender-neutral standards for military combat occupational specialties,” Wormuth said at the hearing. “We have standards in [an Army policy pamphlet] that lays out the requirements for all the combat [jobs] that are gender-neutral.”
The gender-neutral test almost immediately ran into problems when the service conducted a beta launch in 2019.
Internal Army figures first reported by Military.com showed that 44% of female soldiers were failing the test compared to 7% of men. The leg tuck portion of the test, which was later scrapped, was found to be the pitfall for many female service members.
While the old physical fitness test only measured push-ups, sit-ups and a two-mile run, the new test consisted of a deadlift, hand-release push-ups, a plank and a two-mile run. Two other events included in the test involved a measured toss of a 10-pound medicine ball and a back-and-forth sprint, switching between carrying 40-pound kettlebells and dragging a 90-pound sled.
In 2020, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) passed an amendment to delay the test’s implementation. Army Chief of Staff James McConville told lawmakers in 2021 that he was committed to implementing gender-neutral testing.
Zamone “Z” Perez is a rapid response reporter and podcast producer at Defense News and Military Times. He previously worked at Foreign Policy and Ufahamu Africa. He is a graduate of Northwestern University, where he researched international ethics and atrocity prevention in his thesis. He can be found on Twitter @zamoneperez.