US Navy Lowering Standards Amid Recruit Struggle

Since the 2020 pandemic, the U.S. military has seen significant drops in qualified recruits. To combat this issue, the U.S. Navy announced last week that it will lower its entry requirements, allowing individuals without a high school diploma or GED to enlist. 

The decision was made after the Navy only had around 500 individuals score high enough to pass the Armed Services Qualification Test out of over 2,400 potential recruits. Recruits without high school credentials can now enlist if they score 50 or above on the test, which is out of 99.

“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 Admiral Rick Cheeseman, the Navy’s chief of personnel, in an interview Friday with The Associated Press.

“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,” he added.

Cheeseman told the Associated Press that allowing those without a high school education has been a topic of discussion for Navy leaders for a while. This is the first time in over 20 years where the Navy has allowed candidates without a high school diploma or GED to enlist.

For the 2023 fiscal year, which ended Sep. 30, the Navy only recruited 30,236 active-duty enlisted sailors, short of their 37,000 goal. Overall, Cheeseman expects to recruit 40,600 sailors this year. The size of the Navy is currently at 337,800.

The Navy is not alone in the struggle to enlist recruits. The Army and Air Force both have had issues recruiting.

So far, the Navy is the only military branch that would allow those without high school credentials to join. Critics of the new policy believe that the service is lowering their standards, but the Navy said it is meant to expand the “potential applicant pool” of recruits.

“This policy update benefits the Navy by expanding the potential applicant pool of highly qualified and motivated future Sailors who may have been impacted by COVID-19 trends of non-traditional schooling, early exit from high school to support their family, or a variety of other individual circumstances,” the Navy said in a statement Monday announcing the policy.

The new policy follows another change the service made in 2022 when they changed the maximum enlistment age from 39 to 41.


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