Mixed messages from the Navy

Right about the same time as the new National Security Strategy was released, the Navy put out the Strategic Readiness Review, an in-depth look into what caused the basic seamanship problems out in Seventh Fleet. The review is a good read, detailing how we went from an over 500 ship Navy that couldn’t be touched to the less than 300 ships today that attempt to perform the same missions in a significantly more complex environment. The review says that the Navy needs more Sailors, of higher quality that are better trained.

Yet only a week later, we have the same Navy announcing that it is relaxing the physical fitness standards. Sailors can now fail the Physical Readiness Test (PRT) multiple times, and while they won’t be advanced, they won’t get kicked out either.

Lest anyone think the PRT standards are super hard, you can see the 30-34 year old male standards here. Doing a minimum of 44 curlups, 35 pushups and running 1.5 miles in about 14 minutes is not that hard.

So what gives? It seems a bit like mixed messages.

The answer is that the Navy is shoring up manpower. It takes a long time to make Sailors. Between sending them to boot camp, “A” school (where they learn basic stuff for their job), and then likely a “C” school (where they learn more advanced topics), we’re talking a year or more before they get to the fleet. Per Sailor. And when you have something on the order of 48,000 Sailors failing the PRT in some fashion (75% of those fail the body fat portion), it’s an easy move to keep more Sailors in.

Why keep more? We only keep people for two reasons: we’re getting bigger, or we plan on losing people due to war. As much as I want to think the former…I’m quite worried it will be a combination of both.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Department of Defense, Department of the Navy, or any federal agency. And no, I don’t know if we’re going to war, but since we’ve been at war for 16 years now, it wouldn’t surprise me.

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