Army considering cuts to education programs

Army officials are considering cuts to the Army Credentialing Assistance program and the tuition assistance program.

Army officials are considering cutting two education programs, a move that could impact the service’s recruiting and retention efforts and soldiers’ ability to transition to civilian life.

The Army Credentialing Assistance program that gives soldiers up to $4,000 a year to pursue industry-recognized credentials has been “met with catastrophic success,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth told lawmakers on Wednesday. The program, however, is still in its pilot stages, and Army officials recognized they might need to curb its yearly costs.

“It’s a great program. We support it. We know our soldiers value certifications that they can then use when they leave the Army. The challenge we have is we didn’t frankly really put any guardrails around the program to help us scope it,” said Wormuth.

No decisions have been made so far, but service officials are considering limiting the number of credentials soldiers can pursue each year or over the course of their career in the Army.

“What we are looking at is rather than having soldiers be able to pursue an unlimited number of credentials every year in perpetuity, we may look at saying that soldiers could do one certification a year. Maybe have sort of a cap on the number of certifications they can get over the duration of their time in the Army — really just to try to manage the costs of the program a little bit better. But that’s sort of how we’re thinking right now. And those kinds of guardrails are very similar to what our sister services have done in the Air Force and the Navy,” said Wormuth.

Launched in 2020, the program was a way for the service to both upskill its workforce and help soldiers transition to civilian life. Some of the requested credentials among service members include private pilot’s, skydiving and commercial driver’s licenses, security and personal trainer certifications and qualifications in IT or cyber.

“This is a self-development program, and credentials do not need to be aligned to the Soldier’s MOS. Credentialing proves to the civilian workforce our soldiers for life are career ready,” recently retired Sgt. Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston said at the time of the program’s launch.

The Army’s tuition assistance program covers up to $4,000 a year to pursue higher education. Introduced over two decades ago, the program has been critical to the Army’s efforts to recruit and retain its soldiers.

“I’m deeply concerned that cuts in these programs will not only hurt recruiting and retention but also hurt soldiers’ ability to transition out of the military and be prepared for civilian life after they’ve served our nation for a long time,”

Considerations around cuts to education benefits come amidst recruiting shortfalls among most military branches.

“We obviously want to keep them. That’s our number one goal, is to keep everybody. But how we transition them is critically important. That’s important to us also for our recruiting mission, because we know that when people come into the Army, they’re going to get a skill, they’re going to enjoy what they’re doing and then we want to send them back out there. So we’re looking at all of this in total,” said Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George.

Wormuth, however, said the service is “feeling a lot better” about its recruiting efforts this year.

“I don’t want to be overconfident, But I think we both feel that we have a good shot at making that goal this year,” said Wormuth.

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