The U.S. Navy missed active duty recruiting objectives for 2023 by about 20%, despite rolling out a score of initiatives aimed at relieving pressure on recruiting, the service said in a statement Tuesday.
The Navy strove to take on a total of 40,232 active duty officers and enlisted personnel, but only achieved 32,316 in fiscal year 2023, which ended Oct 1, according to a press release. Acting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti toldCongress the Navy began the year estimating it would fall about 13,000 recruits short of its goal for active duty enlisted alone, but that number revised downward, slightly, after the service embarked on a massive campaign to boost numbers.
“Despite a challenging and competitive environment, our talented recruiters made tremendous efforts in FY23. These efforts resulted in 6,000 more contracted future Sailors than the previous year, and helped us close the gap on our forecasted miss by 40%,” the statement said.
The Navy enlisted 30,236 active duty sailors instead of its goal of 37,700 in 2023, according to the statement, and commissioned only 2,080 new officers out of its goal of 2,532. It brought on 65% of the troop numbers targeted to fill enlisted reserve and made just 60% of its reserve officer goals.
In April, Franchetti estimated the Navy would fall 8,000 recruits short of its 2023 goal for enlisted sailors in written testimony to Congress — which turned out to be correct. But she revised her estimate to 7,000 during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Sept. 14.
The Navy doubled down on recruiting incentives in 2023 after realizing the tough conditions of 2022 would persist, including offering bonuses up to $75,000 for enlistees in certain highly technical occupations and raising the maximum age to join from 39 to 41, according to the statement.
It also pushed the limit of the Congressionally-mandated maximum percentage of recruits who score between the 10th and 30th percentile on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, according to the statement.
Seeking to recreate the Army’s success in boosting the test scores of potential future soldiers, the Navy also implemented “Future Sailor Preparatory Courses” at boot camp to push possible recruits to meet the Navy’s academic and physical standards, the statement said.
The Navy said it was “pleased” with the quality of recruits who joined in 2023, according to the statement. However, total force data through the end of August notes that only the Marine Corps, Air Force and Space Force achieved recruit quality benchmarks, omitting the Navy and Army.
The Navy plans to double down on some of the programs attempted in 2023, the statement said.
Other efforts proved less successful; the head of Navy Recruiting Command tried to extend the work week for recruiters to six days, then rescinded the order days later.
It also suspended a “Navy Digital Ambassador” program after the Daily Caller News Foundation reported that the Navy brought on a sailor-slash-drag queen to reach a wider potential recruiting audience through the program.
Despite poor recruiting performance across the services, the Navy has set an even steeper goal for 2024. The service hopes to bring on 40,600 enlisted recruits and 2,807 new officers, the statement said.
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