The U.S. Navy has raised its maximum age for general enlistment from 39 to 41, after the U.S. military saw historic struggles with recruiting in the 2022 fiscal year and signs of continued struggles ahead.
Navy Times first reported on the new enlistment age cutoff on Monday. The updated age limit went into effect last week.
Prior to this change, the Navy’s general enlistment cutoff age was 39 and sailors had to report to boot camp before their 40th birthday. Under the new change, recruits must now report to boot camp before their 42nd birthday.
“As we continue to navigate a challenging recruiting environment, raising the enlistment age allows us to widen the pool of potential recruits, creating opportunities for personnel who wish to serve,” Navy Recruiting Command spokesman Cmdr. Dave Benham told Navy Times.
While the enlistment age limit is applied generally across the service, Benham said the Navy will still impose more strict age limits for sailors pursuing specific job specialties, such as Navy SEALs and divers. As of Tuesday, the Navy’s recruiting website still listed 28-years-old as the maximum cutoff age to begin the SEAL training pipeline.
At the present moment, the U.S. Army’s maximum general enlistment age is still set at 35 years old.
The U.S. Air Force’s maximum general enlistment age is 40.
The U.S. Marine Corp maintains the lowest general enlistment age, requiring recruits to enlist by age 28.
In addition to raising its enlistment age, the Navy has been rolling out other measures to attract more recruits.
This year, the Navy barely passed its active-component enlisted recruiting goal 33,400 new enlisted sailors, bringing in 33,442 sailors in total. While it barely met it’s active enlisted recruiting goal, the Navy missed its 2,507 active-duty officer goal number by 209 officers.
The service’s reserve component also saw shortfalls. By the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30, the Navy Reserve had recruited 5,442 new recruits of its 7,400-recruit goal. The Navy Reserve also brought in 982 new officers out of its goal of 1,360.
In addition to missing some of its 2022 recruiting goal, the Navy has also exhausted its Delayed Entry Program (DEP) pool to the lowest level in decades. In a typical year, military services will be able to meet their recruiting goals and then have more prospective recruits held over in the DEP to begin shipping out in the next recruiting year.
The Navy has said its DEP is at “critically low levels” and a third of the pool is comprised of high-schoolers who cannot ship out to boot camp until they graduate in the spring of 2023.
Before the end of the 2022 fiscal year, the Navy began offering up to $115,000 in enlistment incentives for recruits in certain high-demand occupational ratings. The enlistment incentives included a maximum enlistment bonus of $50,000 and up to $65,000 in loan repayments, with the ability for recruits to max out on both incentive offers for a combined $115,000 in incentives.