The U.S. Navy has lowered qualification requirements to enlist as the branch struggles to meet its recruitment goals.

The branch will now allow recruits who did not graduate from high school or get a GED.

It’s reportedly the second time in roughly a year the Navy has lowered its education standard to meet enlistment marks.

From the Associated Press:

The decision follows a move in December 2022 to bring in a larger number of recruits who score very low on the Armed Services Qualification Test. Both are fairly rare steps that the other military services largely avoid or limit, even though they are all finding it increasingly difficult to attract the dwindling number of young people who can meet the military’s physical, mental and moral standards.

Under the new plan, Navy recruits without an education credential will be able to join as long as they score 50 or above on the qualification test, which is out of 99. The last time the service took individuals without education credentials was in 2000.


“We get thousands of people into our recruiting stations every year that want to join the Navy but do not have an education credential. And we just turn them away,” said Vice Adm. Rick Cheeseman, the Navy’s chief of personnel, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.

He said that of the more than 2,400 who were turned away last year, as many as 500 of them could score high enough to get in. He said he has already sent an order to his recruiters to start the new expanded effort, adding, “I’m hoping all my recruiters have called all 2,442 of them in the last 72 hours, and we’ll see how it goes … We’ll try to get some test takers this weekend.”

According to USNI News, the Navy missed all its recruiting goals in Fiscal Year 2023.

Per USNI News:

The Navy missed its enlisted sailor goal by 7,464, according to the sea service’s numbers published Tuesday. It aimed to recruit 37,700 sailors, but ended the FY 2023 with 30,236. The service met its active-duty enlistment goal in Fiscal Year 2022 by a thin margin, USNI News previously reported.

The sea service fared no better with officers or reserve personnel. It missed the officer goal by 452, enlisted reserve goal by 2,048 and officer reserve by 773.

Despite the failure to meet its goals during the last fiscal year, the Navy has set higher goals for the FY 2024, likely to account for the lower recruiting year.

In FY 2024, the Navy aims to recruit 40,600 enlisted sailors, 2,807 active-duty officers, 7,629 enlisted reserve sailors and 1,785 reserve officers.

Although the Navy missed its recruiting goals, the service gained 6,000 more contracted future sailors in FY 2023 than it did in Fiscal Year 2022, Lt. Cmdr. Richard Parker told USNI News in an email.

The recruitment difficulties aren’t exclusive to the Navy.

The U.S. military continues to miss its recruitment goals across numerous branches.

Stars And Stripes explains:

Last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the Navy, Army and Air Force all failed to meet their recruitment goals, while the Marine Corps and the tiny Space Force met their targets. The previous fiscal year, the Army fell 15,000 short of its enlistment goal of 60,000, and the other services had to dig into the pools of delayed entry candidates in order to meet their recruiting numbers.

Last year, the Navy’s enlistment goal was 37,700, but the service brought in just 31,834. This year, Cheeseman said, he set the goal higher — at 40,600. The total size of the Navy for 2024 is set at 337,800.

“I need these sailors. So it’s a stretch goal. We’re telling our recruiters to go get 40,600 people to join the Navy,” he said. “We don’t fully expect to get that many. But we’re going for it.”

The other services have largely balked at such changes.

The Navy is the only service that enlists anyone considered a “category four” recruit, meaning they scored 30 or less on the qualification test. The service expanded the number of those category four recruits arguing that a number of jobs — such as cook or boatswain mate — don’t require an overall high test score, as long as they meet the job standards.

The Army will only take those lowest scoring candidates into their so-called Future Soldier Prep Course, which gives them weeks of instruction and the opportunity to increase their score in order to make the grade and enlist. The Navy allows low-scoring recruits to go through its Future Sailor Prep Course but doesn’t require an increased score to enlist.

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