Fewer Marines are getting first-class scores on the Physical Fitness Test since changes took effect in January, but that is because the test is harder, not because Marines are weaker, a Corps official said.

For this year’s PFT, Marines have had to do more pullups and crunches and run faster to max out scores. The changes are meant to make first-class scores on the PFT a greater achievement for Marines, said Brian McGuire, deputy director of the Marine Corps’ Force Fitness Division.

The number of Marines getting top scores on the PFT dropped from about 90 percent to 71.2 percent, but that is in line with the Marine Corps’ expectations, McGuire said.

The Corps had estimated that roughly 70 percent of Marines would earn first-class scores on the PFT this year, he said.

“One of the key things that the commandant wanted us to do was to be able to distinguish between different levels of fitness among Marines,” McGuire said. “If 90 percent of Marines were getting first class, how meaningful was earning first class?”

When Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller first started holding town halls in 2015, Marines told him that they wanted the PFT and CFT standards to be tougher, McGuire said. As of August, all Marines should have taken the PFT with the new standards, and about 12 percent of Marines have taken the new CFT, he said.

Despite the drop in first-class scores, Marines are doing better on individual events, McGuire explained. For example, male Marines between 21 and 25 years old did an average of 17.6 pullups in 2017 compared with 16.6 in 2016, he said.

“There is no evidence to suggest that the fitness of Marines is insufficient to meet mission-related demands or those demands in garrison,” McGuire said. “The commandant does not believe that PT in the Marine Corps is broken. What we’re doing now are enhancements.”