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Navy erases past fitness test failures for all sailors in bid to retain force

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Markus Galloway, from Houston, Texas, performs a sit-up during the physical readiness test held on board the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Kole E. Carpenter/Released)
February 19, 2023

Every Navy sailor with failures of the service’s physical fitness assessment (PFA) on their record is set to have them wiped clean in a bid to retain currently-enlisted service members.

Referring to the move as a “reset,” Rear Adm. James Waters III told reporters Wednesday that the new policy would allow up to 1,500 sailors to remain in the service who otherwise may have been discharged, Navy Times reported

Under the policy, PFA failures prior to 2023 will be erased for all active-duty sailors and members of the Navy Reserve. Officers will no longer be processed for administrative separation over past PFA failures, and enlisted personnel will get a special evaluation to restore their eligibility for advancement.

“We expect this reset to balance challenges sailors had in preparing for and completing physical fitness assessments throughout the pandemic and also allow experienced and talented sailors to remain in the Navy,” Waters said. 

The new policy comes soon after the Navy launched a pilot program to enlist prospective sailors whose entrance test scores are the lowest allowed by military standards. 

As other military branches have recently struggled to meet new recruit quotas, the Navy met its goal for active-duty enlisted recruitment last fiscal year but missed targets for new active-duty officers, as well as for reserve officers and enlisted personnel, Navy Times reported.

Waters reportedly acknowledged that recruiting has been “challenging” because less people than before are inclined or even eligible to serve, and the armed services have to compete with the labor market. He referred to moves like the PFA reset as “course corrections.”

“It will reduce attrition if we do not separate sailors based on past PFA failures,” Waters said. “It came about through … a recognition that we don’t want to punish sailors because gyms were closed during the pandemic. We don’t want to disadvantage sailors.”

The Navy began conducting one PFA each calendar year, rather than two, during the COVID-19 pandemic, Navy Times reported. Waters said there is not yet any plan to return to two PFAs in 2024.