The Government Accountability Office says military recruiting and retention data don’t include information that would show whether tattoo policies impact recruitment and retention.
“Officials stated that tattoo policy updates are based on general discussions and on limited assessments of tattoo-related information, such as studies on tattoo prevalence among youth,” according to a recently released GAO report.
The armed forces have relaxed restrictions on tattoos as body art has become more common in American society, particularly among young people who are needed to fill military ranks. Current Defense Department policies allow tattoos almost everywhere except the head.
Most of the services allow waivers for certain unauthorized tattoos for recruits and service members — usually focused on the size and location, but the Defense Department policies aren’t clear about when waivers are available or how to request them, the GAO said.
“Clear guidance on waivers for unauthorized tattoos would provide consistent information about requirements for waiver requests and conditions for approval,” the GAO said. “This could clarify whether tattoo prevalence affects future or continued military service.”
The Defense Department and the individual services told the GAO they “generally agreed” with the recommendations, according to the report.