Congress is set to direct the Army to boost fitness standards for most combat-arms jobs through a compromise defense policy bill unveiled Wednesday.
The must-pass National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, which sets funding and policy priorities for the Pentagon, directs the service to increase the baseline standards in the Army Combat Fitness Test, or ACFT, for ground troops including infantry, cavalry scouts and Special Forces within 18 months of the bill being signed into law by the president.
The direction is the latest in a yearslong slog Army planners have dealt with in finalizing the ACFT with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle being skeptical, turning the test into a political lightning rod. Soldiers started being graded on the ACFT in Oct. 2022.
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The NDAA does not prescribe the new standards to be gender neutral, an about-face from what a draft version of the House version of the bill called for and what some Army planners were mulling behind the scenes.
That means men and women will likely be scored on different standards as they are now, something that has caught the ire of some Republicans on Capitol Hill in recent years. There is nothing preventing the Army from doing so, though.
The bill comes after months of negotiations between the House and Senate. It's expected to easily pass through Congress before the end…