Sen. Cotton rips Army Secretary over lower physical fitness standards, says ‘this will get people killed’

When Congress pushed the U.S. Army to allow women to serve in combat roles, which it did in 2015, some warned that doing so would inevitably result in reduced combat effectiveness and lowered physical fitness standards to accommodate female soldiers who can’t achieve the same fitness requirements as male soldiers.

The Army is now on its fourth version of a new fitness test with adjusted standards since that time, and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), a chief critic of the changes, blasted the Army Secretary during a recent hearing over the new lower standards that will “get people killed,” The Federalist reported.

As predicted, Army fitness standards were lowered for all

The media outlet documented the several changes in physical fitness standards over the past several years — including the temporary adoption of “gender-neutral” standards for a time — but after each change, it still remained clear that the vast majority of female soldiers were simply incapable of meeting the same physical fitness and performance standards as male soldiers due to undeniable physiological differences.

The fourth version of the new Army Combat Fitness Test was rolled out in April, prompted by a congressionally-ordered study conducted by Defense contractor RAND Corporation, and it seemingly reverted back to the age- and gender-specific norms, albeit with requirements and standards that were different and lower than those in the previous Army Physical Fitness Test.

On May 5, new Army Secretary Christine Wormuth delivered testimony about the recently unveiled ACFT version 4.0 to the Senate Armed Forces Committee. It did not go well for her when it came time for questions from Sen. Cotton, a Ranger-qualified combat infantry veteran.

Cotton warned that lower standards will “get people killed”

Sen. Cotton wasted no time in getting to the point and stated that he was “borderline appalled at the fiasco” the ACFT had become, and he attempted to pin down Wormuth into explaining why the Army had decided to abandon its recent “gender-neutral” standards in favor of reverting back to gender-specific standards, given that she had expressed her commitment to the gender-neutral standards less than a year before.

Wormuth danced around the obvious answer, though, and instead referenced the congressionally-ordered study as well as a desire to ensure “fairness” and that no particular “sub-group” would be “disadvantaged” by standards that were difficult to achieve.

She then attempted to assert that the new test was “much more challenging” than before, but Cotton cut her off and bluntly said, “The new standards are pathetic. They are absolutely pathetic,” and went on to highlight a few examples of fitness standards — including a reduced number of required pushups and a 2-mile “run” that could be replaced by a longer walk —  that were markedly lower and less difficult to achieve than the old standards under the prior APFT.

More explained

The secretary tried to explain that standards were lowered due to there being more events included in the test, but the senator cut her off again and said, “The standards for the other events are equally pathetic.”

Cotton further pointed out that, per a “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the new ACFT, unit commanders were prohibited from implementing higher standards on their own soldiers, and declared, “This is going to get people killed.”

The senator concluded his time by reading a quote from the Army’s first female infantry officer and Ranger School graduate who decried reduced standards solely to allow more women to qualify. Finishing her quote, Cotton said, “‘It is wholly unethical to allow the standards of the nation’s premier fighting unit to degrade so badly.’ I agree, and am not gonna let it stand.”

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