U.S. Navy, Faced with Recruiting Nightmare, Begins Accepting High School Dropouts

2024-01-28 18:00:06

As we have covered numerous times, U.S. military recruiting has been in the tank for quite some time, with the various branches now routinely missing their recruitment goals:

It has gotten so bad that the military has even resorted to using drag queens to boost reporting, as we reported: Navy Drag Queen Recruiters – Definitive Evidence that the Military has Lost Its Way

The U.S. Army in particular “has [only] hit 40% of its recruiting goals this year [2022], with the struggle to fill the ranks seemingly so grim the Defense Department reduced its planned total force size because prior recruiting goals were out of reach.”

In fact, in our recent report, In Attempt to Boost Recruiting, U.S. Army Secretary Shuffles Deck Chairs on the Titanic, subtitled “The U.S. Army completely misdiagnoses what is causing its recruiting woes, and rearranges Army command reporting in an attempt to “fix” the “problem,” we explained how Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth had commissioned a grandiose study of the Army’s recruiting woes, which led to a rearrangement of reporting structures in the Army as a fix to the problem:

But what the Army Secretary can do, despite alienating the majority of the country with its woke, transgender hit parade, is rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic:

But Wormuth, who announced sweeping recruiting reforms last week, is focused on what the Army can control.

Some of the organizational moves can occur almost immediately with a stroke of her pen:

  • Recruiting Command, led by Maj. Gen. Johnny Davis, will now directly report to Army headquarters, instead of Training and Doctrine Command.
  • The Army Enterprise Marketing Office, headed by Brig. Gen. Antoinette Gant, will now directly report to Recruiting Command.

Other changes will take years, though Army headquarters will soon issue orders detailing how the effort will unfold, Wormuth said.

Some of those reforms include: focusing on recruiting Americans who have attended some college; creating experimental recruiting units to try new approaches without having to meet a quota; abolishing involuntary recruiting assignments in favor of a specialized recruiting MOS; or even bringing in those without prior service, but with relevant experience, to serve as recruiters.

Of course, retired Army Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Schlichter was not impressed with the breathless Army Times piece describing Wormuth’s “great” plan:

So, the Navy has an egregiously bad recruiting problem as well, but, cutting to the chase quickly as is the Navy’s wont, and dispensing with complicated, man-hour intensive studies and/or Navy Command deck-chair shuffling, the Navy has decided it will simply begin accepting unqualified candidates.

From AP: No diploma? No problem! Navy again lowers requirements as it struggles to meet recruitment goals:

The U.S. Navy is starting to enlist individuals who didn’t graduate from high school or get a GED, marking the second time in about a year that the service has opened the door to lower-performing recruits as it struggles to meet enlistment goals.

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.

Of course, the AP, like the Army Times in its piece about the Army Secretary’s recruiting fix-it plan, completely misdiagnoses the Navy’s recruiting problem.

And, ominously, it glosses over the potential threat to military readiness that a move like this entails:

[Vice Adm. Rick] Cheeseman [Navy Chief of Personnel] said he believes the biggest risk is that they do fail boot camp at higher rates, but he said the difference hasn’t been significant so far for the low-scoring recruits brought in last year. Overall, 11.4% of those recruits didn’t finish boot camp, compared to less than 6.5% of the high-scoring sailors.

He said Navy leaders had been talking about opening up enlistment to those without high school credentials for a while in an effort to expand the pool of potential sailors.

“We just finally decided, okay, let’s go,” he said, adding that the service was looking for other ways to reach untapped talent. “My, argument for accepting that risk is that we have capacity of boot camp. We’re not filling the seats. So I’m willing to take a risk.”

The real threat to military readiness that a move like this entails can be challenging to articulate, but Reddit user Solo-Hobo has the best explanation I have seen:

[T]he Navy is overlooking its own data in an effort to shore up its lagging recruiting numbers.

The reason the Navy had restrictions on GED and non grad applicants in the first place had to do with these groups having very high training attrition rates and a statistically lower chance of completing their first enlistment.

I’m not saying this to be a dick this policy has been around for years based on data. This is throwing bodies at the problem and hoping they stick.

I’m all for giving people a chance but there can be a lot of second and third order negatives coming from bandaid policies. Lots of wasted time and money are about to just make things worse for people out in the fleet.

Drafts and lowering standards leads to people entering (not all people in this group) that shouldn’t be in and we all hear about it on here about bad people staying and promoting because good sailors leave, this will be a source of that problem in a couple years and even before lowers our standards we have[n’t] exactly been killing it when it comes to senior leadership.

This might help in the immediate but it’s going to create a long term talent problem and tie up resources and time that likely will make things worse long term.

[emphasis added]

Just so.

I’m no recruiting expert but I spent my career around very highly qualified nuclear-trained enlistees, many of whom had college degrees, and they were by-and-large excellent sailors who performed superbly under very challenging conditions. I also served with many lesser-qualified sailors in various non-submarine/nuclear related tours of duty, and the difference was often noticeable. Most did a great job, but there is no question that lowering standards for enlistment in such a dramatic way should be a huge red flag for anyone concerned with national security. Ships with lesser qualified individuals simply will not perform as well in the long-term, and we should not be compromising our military service standards this way.

Roaming RN sums up:


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U.S. Navy, Faced with Recruiting Nightmare, Begins Accepting High School Dropouts


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