The Navy is expected to miss its recruiting goals for FY23 by roughly 7,000 sailors, according to acting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti.
The Navy and other services are struggling to bring in new recruits, which military leaders attribute to more thorough medical screenings, fewer Americans eligible to serve and low civilian unemployment.
While the Navy will not hit its recruitment targets this year, the service had been bracing for a more dire outcome at the beginning of the fiscal year, Franchetti told the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday during her confirmation hearing to serve as CNO.
“We started out the year thinking we’d be about 13,000 short,” Franchetti said. “We’re going to be about 7,000 short. We’re doing better month by month than we were last year.”
The Navy reported in September 2022 that it met its active duty enlisted recruitment goals for FY22, but was forced to drain its Delayed Entry Program pool to the lowest level the in 40 years to hit that mark. The program allows someone to join the Navy prior to their shipping date.
The service has taken a number of steps to improve recruitment numbers this year, include raising the maximum enlistment bonus to $75,000 and raising the maximum enlistment age to 41.
The service also kicked off a pilot program in December permitting sailors who scored lower on the Armed Forces Qualification Test, part of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery, to still sign up for the Navy. The change allows prospective sailors who score between the 10th and 30th percentile on the AFQT to join if their ASVAB individual line scores are high enough to qualify for a Navy rating.
“I would like to make the point that the Navy has not lowered any of our standards,” Franchetti said. “We are using every available lever to us that’s authorized to be able to expand the pool of people that we’re bringing in.”
Franchetti said the Navy also needs to have a “conversation with America” about what the sea service can offer, so those who don’t live near Navy installations or coastal regions, and perhaps don’t know any sailors, will still be interested in joining.
Although the confirmation hearing was held, Franchetti’s selection to become the first woman to lead the Navy is one of hundreds of military nominations — including the presumptive leaders of the Army and the Marine Corps — stalled due to Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s ongoing hold on confirmations because of his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
The policy provides travel and transportation allowances for service members seeking non-covered abortion and reproductive services out of state.
According to Franchetti, it will take “years” for the Navy to recover from these promotion delays, which have resulted in acting commanders leading Naval Surface Forces, Naval Air Forces, the U.S. Naval Academy, among other commands.
“As we look right now, our Navy is facing challenges all around the globe, threats from our adversaries,” she said. “We want to have the right people with the right level of experience in those positions. And as we continue to not have the confirmed people that we’ve nominated with that experience, we’re going to continue to see an erosion of readiness.”
Earlier this month, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro slammed Tuberville for the hold-up after Tuberville told Fox News that Del Toro needed to “get wokeness out of our Navy.”
“I would argue that Tommy Tuberville, what he’s actually doing is, he’s playing Russian roulette with the very lives of our service members by denying them the opportunity to have the most experienced combat leaders in those positions to lead them in times of peace and in times of combat,” Del Toro said in an interview with CNN.