The U.S. Navy has already lowered its test score standard for new recruits to the lowest level allowed by law, and it is now suspending its requirement for some form of secondary education. Recruits with no GED or high school diploma can now enter the service, so long as they can score above the 50th percentile on the Armed Services Qualification Test (ASQT).
The decision reinstates an old policy. Up until 2000, an adequate test score was enough to enlist, without any formal educational credentials.
The Navy fell 6,000 people short of its recruiting goal in 2023 and is fighting to make up the gap. Its target this year is to bring in 40,600 people aged 17-41 who can meet the Navy’s physical, mental and moral standards.
This is a tall bar to clear. Between low fitness, past brushes with the law, and test-taking ability, the majority of the U.S. population does not qualify for service. Fewer have an interest in serving, and all of the service branches are falling short of their numbers (except the Marine Corps, which is meeting its targets).
Vice Adm. Rick Cheeseman, the Navy’s Chief of Personnel, told the AP on Friday that prospective recruits without an educational credential could be an untapped resource numbering in the thousands – even if they might have a higher risk of washing out during training.
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“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,” he said.