The Effect of the Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength (ARMS) Program on Army Accessions and Attrition

by David S. Loughran, Bruce R. Orvis


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The fraction of American youth meeting U.S. Army enlistment standards for weight and body fat has decreased markedly over the past three decades. In response to this adverse trend, in 2005, the Army allowed six Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) to grant an enlistment waiver to applicants who exceeded weight and body fat standards as long as they passed a physical endurance, motivation, and strength test known as the Assessment of Recruit Motivation and Strength (ARMS) test. The test was developed by Army medical scientists who believed that it complements existing physical tests used to identify potential enlistees who would and would not fare well in the military. The Army implemented ARMS at eight additional MEPS in February 2006 and then at the remaining 51 MEPS in April 2006.

The authors find that ARMS increased male and female accessions of overweight applicants in the six ARMS study sites by 35 and 62 percent, respectively, between 2004 and 2005. They also report that this substantial increase in overweight accessions had no effect on 6- and 18-month attrition rates. Given the low cost of implementing the program, the authors conclude that ARMS is a highly cost-effective means of screening overweight applicants for military service.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Medical History and ARMS Data

  • Chapter Three

    Trends in Body Fat Percentage and the ARMS Test

  • Chapter Four

    The Effect of ARMS on Army Accessions

  • Chapter Five

    The Effect of ARMS on Attrition

  • Chapter Six


  • Appendix

    Additional Tables

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center

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