Navy On Pace To Whiff Recruitment Goal Despite Encouraging December

(U.S. Navy photo by Unit Public Affairs Representative LTJG Anthony Asmar).

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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The U.S. Navy recruited more sailors through the first quarter of fiscal year 2024, which ended in December, than in the same period for five years prior, Navy Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman, the chief of naval personnel, said Wednesday, according to USNI News.

The Navy brought in 11,282 future sailors through December of 2023, Cheeseman said, compared to just 4,882 active duty sailors in 2022 and 7,233 the year before, according to public data from the Department of Defense (DOD). Cheeseman predicted the Navy once again would miss its recruiting goal by the end of this fiscal year but noted that the service performed better than expected in 2023, hoping 2024 would bring a similar surprise, according to USNI News.

An uptick in recruiting follows unusual publicity on the U.S. Navy’s operations in the Middle East. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had ordered the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier to the Mediterranean to bolster America’s deterrence presence there on Oct. 8 in response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel. Also since October, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower carrier and a rotation of guided-missile destroyers have been racking up kills in the Red Sea against Houthi-launched attack drones and missiles. (RELATED: Army Struggles For White Recruits Amid Recruiting Crisis And Diversity Push)

The gap in personnel is hitting the Navy particularly hard where lower ranks are concerned, Cheeseman said, according to The service is missing 22,000 junior sailors to fill at-sea billets and will likely be short 16,000 by the end of the fiscal year, internal projections show.

“I guarantee we’re not going to be that far off,” Cheeseman said at the annual Surface Navy Association conference in Virginia, according to

Cheeseman said the Navy should emphasize net contracts over recruiting numbers, since contracts also includes future sailors on a delayed-entry status and those who go into bootcamp, according to USNI News. In 2023 the service drained its delayed-entry pool, leaving little flexibility for the service to fill gaps in 2024 recruiting with delayed-entry applicants.

The Navy needs about 175 new recruits each day to meet its 2024 objectives, Cheeseman said, according to USNI News. He hopes for 40,000 new contracts for fiscal year 2024 ending on Sept. 30.

In 2023, about 1,230 people scheduled meetings with Navy recruiters each day, but only an average of 879 made those appointments, Cheeseman said, according to USNI News. Of those, 366 proved both qualified and interested in joining, and some of those were weeded out following aptitude tests and physicals undergone at processing centers.

Cheeseman highlighted a “data-driven” process and prior year reforms to the recruiting and accessions process as signs of hope the service might see better numbers than the current projections, according to

The Navy was  “an organization that didn’t really actually — how can I say this politely — value the job of recruiting,” Cheeseman said. “That has changed.”

The service’s recruiting-focused Digital Ambassador Program blew up after the Daily Caller News Foundation first reported the Navy platformed an active duty sailor-slash-drag queen to allegedly reach a wider audience.

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