Ex-Navy SEAL lawmaker: Don't lower standards for military recruits

Ex-Navy SEAL lawmaker: Don't lower standards for military recruits
© Getty Images

Rep. Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: EPA moves to raise ethanol levels in gasoline | Dems look to counter White House climate council | Zinke cleared of allegations tied to special election Zinke cleared of violating federal rules tied to Pennsylvania special election Overnight Energy: Trump unveils 2020 budget | Plan slashes funds for EPA, Interior and Energy | Interior request highlights border security MORE (R-Mont.), a former Navy SEAL Team 6 commander, is slamming Defense Secretary Ashton Carter for a proposal to relax some military enlistment standards to boost personnel recruitment and retention.

“We're contracting our military ... and now is not the time to lower the standards. You know, we have a smaller force, which demands a greater amount of responsibility,” he said Tuesday during an interview with Fox News's “Fox & Friends."

“And so, I think we need to do the opposite. I think we need to raise the bar because we have a smaller force,” Zinke added.

ADVERTISEMENT

The full details of Carter’s proposals are not yet known, but he is reportedly weighing plans to ease some military enlistment standards. The changes are intended to help the military compete with private industry and better recruit those interested in cybersecurity or high-tech jobs.

Carter also intends to promote incentives for cybersecurity personnel and look into allowing troops to take mid-career breaks for school or family.

Other standards that could be relaxed could include age requirements or disqualifications for "minor drug offenses,” according to media reports.

Zinke, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, took issue with the idea of discounting criminal records.

“I think we need to be very, very careful,” he said. “You know, as an example, the Navy, the new ships, smaller crew, more efficient, and every member is critical in that force, and to have a standard that isn't as strong, I think that's just in the opposite direction we need to go.”

But, Zinke said, the focus on cyber is “interesting because [it's] a different skill set than historical standards, you're not going to be an infantryman walking them down hills, and the physical demands aren't as great. ... So I think there's room in there.”

“Technology certainly is going faster. Dynamics on the battlefield are faster. And so, I think you do need, you know, a warrior that is adept in technology, you know, certainly skilled,” he later added.

Zinke predicted that the “training set” would be longer for those who sign up for cyber warfare. 

“To be a Navy SEAL, it's three and a half years training before you're ever put into harm's way the first time. Many of the special forces are about the same, and ... I would assume that cybersecurity is going to be a long training set before you ever do your duty,” he said.

Zinke would support changing age restrictions on cyber jobs but not easing drug standards.

This story was updated at 2:45 p.m.