Navy eases career ending rules for sailors who fail two consecutive fitness tests

Sailors’ careers will no longer be over if they fail back to back fitness tests, according to updated U.S. Navy policy. Now, instead of automatic marks on their annual evaluations, sailors’ fitness and overall health will be observed and considered by their respective commanding officers.

The change, announced by the service in an administrative notice this week, essentially puts more discretion in the hands of individual commanding officers with the Physical Fitness Assessment (or PFA). The policy went into effect on June 18.

The updated policy removes “significant problem comments and administration actions concerning physical readiness program failures,” Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman, chief of naval personnel, wrote in the notice. Under the changes there will now be a single PFA Cycle for the 2025 calendar year.

“Building the bodies of great people is more than annual (or biannual) testing and includes ensuring healthy food, adequate sleep, opportunities to exercise (especially outside), and medical readiness,” the notice continues. “Commanding Officers (COs) are able to evaluate a Sailor’s physical readiness, progress or lack of progress in performance evaluations, giving them the ability to manage risk, recognize earnest effort, and best take care of their people.”

Under the former policy, one failure meant being automatically placed into a mandatory fitness program. A second, consecutive fitness test failure barred sailors from any promotion or being able to reenlist. 

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The changes ask that individual commanders now look at a more holistic view of sailors’ health, fitness and performance. The notice says that commanders should consider how qualified sailors are, “based on the [s]ailor’s ability to perform the functions of their rate without physical or medical limitation at sea, shore or isolated duty, [t]heir overall ability to contribute to Navy missions, and [t]he likelihood of improvement in meeting PFA standards within the next 12 months.”

The Navy, as with other branches of the military, has been struggling with bringing in new recruits. It, like those other branches, has offered financial incentives to bring in new sailors. However, the Navy is on track to meet its retention goals. The new fitness policy, although not explicitly about boosting retention, could help with it.

These changes are part of the Navy’s “Culture of Excellence 2.0” campaign, an effort to update policies to improve quality of life for sailors and address issues raised from within the ranks. The Navy has been dealing with low morale and concerns over mental health.

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Nicholas Slayton

Contributing Editor

Nicholas Slayton is a Contributing Editor for Task & Purpose. In addition to covering breaking news, he writes about history, shipwrecks, and the military’s hunt for unidentified anomalous phenomenon (formerly known as UFOs). He currently runs the Task & Purpose West Coast Bureau from Los Angeles.

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