The military budget is shrinking and it will only get worse. Over the next decade, because of the Budget Control Act (also known as Sequestration), $500 million will be cut from the Department of Defense budget. In the department I work in, we are losing civilian positions and hours for them to work, forcing more and more work onto Soldiers. This gives a double wammy to us because the pool of Soldiers is shrinking along with the hours that civilians have to work. Active duty military will have to take on different responsibilities and work in positions that they normally do not work.
When I say the military is shrinking, I mean it is shrinking as we speak. The Marines are cutting 20,000 Marines between 2012 and 2016. I know a Marine officer that was forced out. She loved the Marines, had no negative ratings, and had no plans on leaving. The Marines decided she was part of the cuts. It is a shame, but a shrinking military means that military personnel on the bubble, will probably not have many opportunities to stay in.
What does this mean for you: If you are thinking of joining any branch of the military it is getting harder to get in. With the economy still struggling, a lot of people are still turning to the military to provide them and their families with a safety net. Think about it as a smaller job pool with more applicants applying. With your prospects in that perspective, how do you stack up?
Your GED will probably not cut it anymore. Yes technically you can join the military with a GED (as long as you get a 50 on the ASVAB), but what about the other potential recruits that want that same branch slot that you want? If there are 2 potential Soldiers that have their high school diplomas and you have your GED, the possibility of you getting in is slim. Typically recruiters do not need to try for candidates with GEDs since there are so many that have their diplomas.
Medical waivers and criminal history waivers, like GEDs, are also starting to phase out. Your recruiter may try to get you a waiver for a preexisting medical condition but the approval rate has gone down and you may not even get it approved. Give it time though, I have heard of approvals taking up to a year to be processed. This is because each waiver is approved on an individual basis. Do not be surprised if the waiver is denied though.
From the point of view of the Army, recruits with GEDs and medical/criminal waivers are the bottom of the barrel. With recruiting applications at record levels and recruiting goals at all time lows for the decade, the Army and other branches do not need to scrape the bottom of the barrel to get numbers. They can get the best qualified applicants. I do not say this to discourage you, but you need to have a realistic expectation for your odds of getting in. If you want in, try. The worst that can happen is they say no. With that said, good luck!