The Navy missed its recruitment goals for active duty enlisted sailors by more than 7,450 accessions in fiscal year 2023, according to Navy Recruiting Command.
The Navy is one of the service branches that struggled with recruiting, which military leaders attribute to more thorough medical screenings, fewer Americans eligible to serve and low civilian unemployment.
The Navy announced Tuesday it recruited 30,236 new active duty sailors in fiscal 2023, falling short of the 37,700 target number accessions for the year. The service also recruited 1,948 Reserve enlisted personnel, down from its 3,000 goal.
The Navy also failed to meet its officer goals, recruiting only 2,080 new active duty officers rather than the 2,532 target, and 1,167 Reserve officers rather than the 1,940 troops target.
In fiscal year 2022, the Navy met its active duty enlisted recruitment goals, but depleted its Delayed Entry Program pool to the lowest level in 40 years to do so. The program allows someone to join the Navy prior to their shipping date.
As a result, the Navy was prepared for a challenging recruitment environment in 2023.
During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Service committee to serve as the chief of naval operations, Acting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti warned in September that the service expected to miss its target recruitment numbers by roughly 7,000.
However, Franchetti said, the Navy expected a far worse outcome at the beginning of fiscal 2023, and originally braced to miss its recruitment goals by roughly 13,000 troops.
Recent initiatives aimed at boosting recruitment numbers include raising the maximum enlistment bonus from $50,000 to $75,000, and increasing the maximum enlistment age from 39 to 41.
The Navy also kicked off The Future Sailor Preparatory Course in April, which focuses on physical fitness and nutrition in an attempt to help hundreds of prospective recruits meet the Navy’s body-fat entry standards. The program also includes academic coursework and basic militarization to introduce potential recruits to Navy core values.
Additionally, the service also launched a pilot program in 2022, allowing sailors who scored lower on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, part of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, to still join the Navy. The change allows prospective sailors who score between the 10th and 30th percentile on the AFQT to join if their ASVAB individual line scores are high enough to qualify for a Navy rating.
Franchetti emphasized that doing so doesn’t mean standards are dropping.
“I would like to make the point that the Navy has not lowered any of our standards,” Franchetti said in September. “We are using every available lever to us that’s authorized to be able to expand the pool of people that we’re bringing in.”
The Navy said it is aiming to recruit 40,600 new active duty enlisted personnel in fiscal year 2024, as well as 7,619 Reserve enlisted personnel. The service is shooting for 2,807 new active duty and 1,785 Reserve officers in 2024.