Two senators are questioning whether an electronic records system is partly to blame for the military’s failure to get enough recruits into basic training because it has led to delays in clearing them medically.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, both Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said they have requested the Defense Department describe the severity of the delays and called for an evaluation of the impact the delays have had on recruiting.
Recruiters from each service branch have had difficulty in the last two years finding enough candidates for basic training. The Army missed its recruitment goal in 2022 by about 15,000 soldiers, according to the service. The 2023 recruiting deadline ends Sept. 30, the last day of the fiscal year, and the Air Force and Navy have joined the Army in saying the services will likely miss their enlistment targets.
“It is essential that recruits are healthy enough to enlist in the military. However, DOD needs to examine the steps it is taking to ensure that the process of enlisting and obtaining waivers does not impede the recruitment process,” the senators wrote in a letter sent Wednesday to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “If this backlog continues, we may lose our next generation of military leaders who are well-qualified but may be deterred from applying because of long past and fully addressed medical issues.”
In March 2022, the Defense Department employed a new congressionally mandated health information system called Genesis at all 67 military processing stations. The system is intended to improve the department’s ability to track the recruits as they move through the service because it holds all medical records in one digital location.
A year after the rollout, Lin St. Clair, deputy director of the Defense Department’s accession policy directorate, said the program did cause initial delays in medically clearing recruits for basic training.
The process now takes about three days longer on average than it did before Genesis.
From the time a recruiter submits an applicant for evaluation to the time that the recruit signs a contract takes about 27 days on average, according to the Defense Department. However, half of applicants make it through in nine days or fewer.
However, the senators wrote that processing times are much longer. The Navy’s average processing period is almost 60 days — double what it was before Genesis was implemented, according to Warren and Blumenthal.
Aside from delays, the senators were also concerned Genesis might be creating barriers to accessing benefits information and invading the privacy of service members and military recruits. They cited reports that a credit card is needed to access Genesis, which has led to fears that personal information could be sold to third-party companies.