The U.S. Navy is once again changing its enlisting requirements and will start accepting individuals who do not have a high school diploma or a GED in an effort to combat a historic recruiting crisis across the services, the Chief of Naval Personnel’s office said Friday.
Prospects will still need to have a qualifying score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) and meet the other basic requirements to enlist.
The Navy said removing the diploma and GED obligation will open up its pool of applicants, something it and other military branches desperately need in order to meet enlistment goals.
“We have previously turned away future Sailors with qualifying AFQT scores because they didn't have a high school diploma or GED. Everyone qualified to serve deserves a chance to serve!” Vice Adm. Rick Cheeseman, the Navy’s chief of personnel, said on X.
Once enlisted, sailors can take advantage of the free academic skills training programs and test preparation courses to help them earn a GED.
It has become increasingly difficult for recruiters to find potential sailors who meet the physical, mental and moral standards of the Navy — despite offering record-high financial incentives, increasing the age limit and lowering the AFQT score requirements back in 2022.
The Navy is the only service that will enlist a percentage of individuals who score 30 or lower (on a 100-point scale) on the AFQT, known as “category recruits.”
The sea force isn’t the only one struggling to bring in recruits. During the last fiscal year, only two of the five Defense Department service branches met their active-duty enlisted recruitment goals.
During a committee meeting in December, Army Maj. Gen. Johnny K. Davis, commanding general of the Army Recruiting Command, said it is "one of the toughest recruiting landscapes I've seen in over 33 years of service."
But the Navy is taking the most drastic changes to counteract the low numbers with its requirement changes.
Other services are concerned that lower-performing recruits may be more likely to flunk out of boot camp or could present more disciplinary problems over time, the Associated Press reported.
In response to those concerns, Cheeseman told the Associated Press the difference in passing or failing boot camp hasn’t been significant for the low-scoring recruits brought in last year — with 11.4% of those recruits not finishing boot camp, compared to less than 6.5% of the high-scoring sailors.
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