Authored by Bill Pan via The Epoch Times (emphasis ours),
The U.S. Navy said on Jan. 26 that it will start to enlist those who didn’t graduate from high school in the latest attempt to fill its ranks in the wake of a recruiting crisis that troubles every branch of the U.S. military.
Under the new plan, Navy recruits without a high school diploma will be able to join as long as they score 50 or higher on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT), which is used to determine basic eligibility for military service. The highest possible AFQT score is 99.
Those without a General Educational Development, or GED, credential can also enlist as long as they meet the same AFQT score threshold. The GED consists of four academic subject tests—math, science, social studies, and reasoning through language arts—and passing those tests certifies that the taker has the skills and knowledge equivalent to a high school graduate.
The last time that the Navy allowed those who lacked education credentials to enlist was in 2000, according to the Chief of Naval Personnel’s office.
In a statement announcing the change, Navy officials said it is “another pathway of opportunity for previously excluded individuals to serve” and that it could fill some 500 to 2,000 empty slots at sea every year.
In addition, the new plan could help to accommodate those who struggled to graduate high school because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a period marked by widespread school closures, social isolation, and on-and-off online classes. The pandemic also forced military recruiters out of high schools, where they traditionally reach prospective candidates at events such as career day fairs.
“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,” Navy officials said in the statement.
Once they are in the service, sailors can take advantage of free academic skills training programs and test preparation courses to work toward a GED, according to the statement.
“Sailors who enlist under this policy change can achieve personal and professional growth by earning their GED while gaining experience in cutting-edge technologies and learning professional skills that allow them to exceed their expectations while serving in the Navy,” it stated.
This isn’t the first time that the military branch loosened its requirements after barely making its recruiting goal for active-duty enlisted in Fiscal Year (FY) 2022. The Navy started FY 2023 by adjusting the maximum age for enlistment to 41 from 39 and would later raise the maximum enlistment bonus to $50,000.
It also launched a pilot program for recruits with low AFQT scores. Under the pilot program, the Navy would accept 20 percent of recruits who scored between 10 and 30 on the test, as long as they scored high enough on the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, considered a better assessment of naval recruits.
On top of those measures, the Navy introduced a program aimed at those without the body composition requirements for joining the service. Potential recruits would go through a three-week program at a Great Lakes, Illinois, boot camp, where they would get fitness help to meet the requirements.
Despite all of the efforts, the Navy failed to meet every one of its recruitment goals in FY 2023. It aimed to recruit 37,700 sailors but ended up bringing in just 30,236.
The Navy fared no better with officers or reserve personnel. In FY 2023, it missed the officer goal by 452 people, the enlisted reserve goal by 2,048, and the officer reserve goal by 773.
Because of the failure to meet its goals during the last fiscal year, the Navy has set higher goals for FY 2024. It aims to recruit 40,600 enlisted sailors, 2,807 active-duty officers, 7,629 enlisted reserve sailors, and 1,785 reserve officers.
Other service branches also have difficulty finding recruits who can meet physical and academic requirements. According to a 2022 study from the Pentagon, about 77 percent of young Americans ages 17 to 24 wouldn’t qualify for military service without some form of a waiver because of being overweight, using drugs, or having mental and physical health problems.