The Navy has ended a policy where sailors who fail a second physical fitness assessment, or PFA, are barred from advancing or reenlisting.

Under the old rules, sailors would undergo their command’s mandatory fitness program after failing a first PFA and could not advance until passing a second PFA. Those who failed that second PFA were unable to advance or reenlist — effectively ending their Navy career.

But now, the Navy is giving commanding officers more autonomy in determining the fate of these sailors who can’t pass the fitness assessment, according to a new policy that took effect on June 18.

COs are best-positioned to evaluate a sailor’s progress toward getting into shape, “giving them the ability to manage risk, recognize earnest effort, and best take care of their people,” a naval administrative message, or NAVADMIN, announcing the change said.

“This change provides command leadership discretion on retention recommendations to exercise in the best interests of the Navy,” the NAVADMIN said.

Commanders should keep in mind a sailor’s qualification for continued service, their ability to contribute to Navy missions and the likelihood of meeting PFA standards in the next year, according to the instruction.

As a result, sailors will no longer have PFA failures appear on their annual evaluations, although they still may not advance. Additionally, those who fail a subsequent PFA are not required to receive the minimal marks or trait grades in Military Bearing/Professionalism, or Significant Problems and Retention Not Recommended categories on their evaluations.

The policy aligns with the Navy’s new Culture of Excellence 2.0 campaign the service unveiled in March, aimed at reframing Navy culture and providing leaders the right tools to better understand their sailors, the service said.

Additionally, the PFA update comes a little more than a year after the Navy implemented a policy allowing sailors with a PFA failure on their record to start with a clean slate as part of what the Navy dubbed a “one-time reset.”

That change erased any PFA failures prior to 2023, allowing commanding officers to reinstate retention and advancement recommendations for active-duty and reserve sailors who wanted to stay in the Navy and advance.

The effort came as part of a Fleet-wide effort to improve accessions, retention and attrition, according to Navy leaders.

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