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 12,000 high schools across the country. The 4 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.
In high schools throughout the country, the Department of Defense promotes the ASVAB 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. 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 require students to take the test even though military regulations prohibit DOD personnel from suggesting to school officials that the test be made mandatory.
The military uses the four-hour exam to gather a treasure-trove of information to use in a sophisticated recruiting program. 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 individualized profiles gathered from test data and other sources.
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.
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 12% of all students tested during the 2009-2010 school had their privacy protected. The figure would be much lower without our advocacy.
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. (See the chart below). We are directly responsible for the selection of Option 8 by several hundred schools and school systems. In the last year and a half we've been successful in attracting substantial national mainstream media attention, including stories in several dozen major dailies, USA Today, NPR, as well as numerous radio talk programs. Our work has also led to the coverage of ASVAB testing as a recruiting device in many local media outlets. Perhaps more importantly, the issue has routinely appeared in widely circulated educational and legislative journals. Passing the law in Maryland was a watershed event.