More Evidence Needed to Support Performance Goals of Current Army Combat Fitness Test; Women, Other Groups Pass the Gender-Neutral Test at Lower Rates
Mar 23, 2022
The U.S. Army is introducing a new fitness test for the first time in more than 40 years. The six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is designed to (1) ensure soldiers are ready to perform combat tasks, (2) reduce preventable injuries, and (3) promote a culture of fitness throughout the Army. In this report, the authors conduct a review of the ACFT and provide recommendations to support the Army's implementation decisions.
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The Army is introducing a new fitness test for the first time in more than 40 years. The six-event Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) is designed to (1) ensure soldiers are ready to perform combat tasks, (2) reduce preventable injuries, and (3) promote a culture of fitness throughout the Army.
In this report, the authors conduct an independent review of the ACFT and provide recommendations to support the Army's implementation decisions. The RAND research team undertook a multidimensional approach that involved (1) an evaluation of ACFT data gathered by the Army, (2) interviews and discussions with members of the workforce and subject-matter experts, and (3) a review and assessment of ACFT-relevant research, plans, policies, and other guidance.
The authors find that the Army's evidence base for the ACFT supports some, but not all, aspects of the test. In particular, some events have not been shown to predict combat task performance or reduce injuries, and justification is needed for why all fitness events and minimum standards apply equally to all soldiers. Relatedly, ACFT scores collected by the Army during the diagnostic phase show some groups failing at noticeably higher rates — the implications of which need to be investigated. Evidence suggests that scores and pass rates can improve with training and that soldiers want more access to the right training and equipment. To address these concerns and because it must continuously monitor the ACFT after its full-scale implementation, the Army should establish a permanent, institutionalized process for overseeing and refining the ACFT.
Evidence Base for ACFT Development and Validation
Variation in ACFT 3.0 Pass Rates, Fitness Tier Cut Points, and Potential Impacts on the Workforce
Evidence for Training and Implementation Alternatives to Increase ACFT 3.0 Pass Rates
Conclusions and Recommendations
Diagnostic ACFT Data Sample Sizes and Proportion Tested, by Component
Details on Improving Validation of the ACFT
Physical Tasks Required of All Soldiers in Combat and a Resulting List of Fitness Event Predictors
Differential Prediction Analysis for ACFT Total Score and Individual Event Scores
Additional Findings on Pass Rates and Event Outcomes
Pass Rates Under Different Policy Options