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The ASVAB is the military's entrance exam that is given to fresh recruits to determine their aptitude for various military occupations. The test is also used as a recruiting tool in nearly 12,000 high schools across the country. The 3-hour test is used by military recruiting services to gain sensitive, personal information on more than 660,000 high school students across the country every year, the vast majority of whom are under the age of 18. Students typically are given the test at school without parental knowledge or consent. The school-based ASVAB Career Exploration Program is among the military's most effective recruiting tools.
The Department of Defense promotes the ASVAB in schools without revealing its tie-in to the military or its primary function as a recruitment tool. School counselors and administrators encourage students to take the test that many claim assists students in matching their abilities with certain career paths.
Section 6-2 of the US Army Recruiting Command's School Recruiting Program Handbook says the primary purpose of the ASVAB is to provide military recruiters "with a source of leads of high school juniors and seniors qualified through the ASVAB for enlistment into the Active Army and Army Reserve."
Pentagon data released to our campaign through a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal that more than a thousand high schools actually require students to take the test even though military regulations prohibit DOD personnel from suggesting to school officials that the test be made mandatory.
Section 3-1 e of U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) Regulation 601-4 spells out the intended voluntary aspect of the student ASVAB. "School and student participation in the STP is voluntary. DOD personnel are prohibited from suggesting to school officials or any other influential individual or group that the test be made mandatory." Meanwhile, guidance counselors in high schools in several states have confided that recruiters convinced them the ASVAB was required under federal law.
The military uses the exam to gather a treasure-trove of information to use in an astoundingly sophisticated recruiting program. From electronic trolling of social websites to purchasing information from yearbook and ring companies -- military recruiting services know what's in Johnny's head, if Johnny has a girlfriend, and what she thinks of his decision regarding enlistment. The laptops of local recruiters are loaded with personal information on youth. Army recruiting software programs merge demographic, consumer behavior, and geographic data pertaining to individual prospects. The information is combined with data from social media sites like Instagram and Facebook and the result is staggering. Recruiters know Johnny reads wrestling magazines, weighs 150, can bench press 230, drives a ten year-old Chevy truck, listens to "classic rock," and enjoys fly fishing.
The ASVAB, however, opens the door to Johnny's cognitive abilities, something recruiting services can't purchase or find on line. Johnny's social, intellectual, and mechanical dimensions are combined to create a precise, virtual portrait. As one high-level DoD official put it, "It's all about info before first contact."
After the test is administered military representatives typically meet with youth at school to discuss their scores and suggest career paths. Later, recruiters make calls to the students, using the sophisticated individualized profiles.
Federal and state laws strictly monitor the release of student information, but the military manages to circumvent these laws with the administration of the ASVAB. The Family Educational Rights Protection Act and the Elementary and Secondary Education Act both contain requirements for opt-out notifications in releases of student information. Parents are given the right to stop their child's personal information from being released to third parties, but there are no such requirements in the ASVAB student testing program.
Since 1925 the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized the “fundamental right” of parents or guardians to make decisions regarding “the care, custody, and control of their children.” Therefore, parents and guardians have a legal interest in deciding whether or not they would like their children to participate in the ASVAB-CEP program. For a discussion of the respective rights of schools and parents, see "Best Practices for ASVAB-CEP Administration: A Guide to Professional Guidance Counselors," a publication of The Center for Law and Justice, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Although military regulations allow the test to be administered while precluding test results from reaching recruiters, our collective experience has revealed that few school administrators across the country are aware of the option. Nationally, only 15% of all students tested during the 2010-2011 school year had their privacy protected.
U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command (USMEPCOM) Regulation 601-4 identifies several options schools have regarding the administration and release of ASVAB information. These options range from Option 1, which permits test results and other student information to be released to military recruiters without prior consent, to Option 8, the only one that prevents test results from being used for recruiting purposes. Inaction on the part of a school will cause USMEPCOM to automatically select Option 1. Students and parents may not determine which release option is used; therefore they cannot opt out of releasing the information individually. See Page 3-2 of USMEPCOM 601-4
Nationally, the selection of ASVAB Option 8 has climbed from less than 1% in 2005 (our estimate) to 4.4% in 2007 to 8.6% in 2009 to 12.2% in 2010, to 14.2% in 2011, to to 15.04% during the 2012-2013 school year.