In another telltale sign of the recruiting crisis gripping the U.S. military services, the Navy recently announced that it was dropping the requirement that new recruits must have a high school diploma or equivalent.
“To date, the Navy is the only military branch currently seeking to recruit those without a high school diploma or GED as it works to expand the number of eligible candidates to join the service amid an historically challenging recruiting environment,” the Navy Times wrote of the unusual move.
The action comes on the heels of a bad year for recruiting overall. In the last fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, the Navy, Army and Air Force all failed to meet recruitment goals.
The sea-going service maintains that it is not lowering its standards to entice new recruits because it still is requiring candidates to attain a solid score on the Armed Forces Qualification Test entrance exam.
But the action nonetheless underscores that the Navy’s efforts to date to reach high school graduates and promote the value and benefits of a career in the Navy are lacking. It further adds fuel to a national effort gaining steam to provide state-level educators with data from the Defense Department showing whether upon graduation students are prepared to succeed in the military.
State education leaders press for key data
A growing number of state education leaders are pressing the Department of Defense to provide them with that data. The view among the states is that if educators could point to statistics that high school grads from their schools are flourishing in the military, then recruitment might be more successful over time, because the military would be viewed as a viable post-high school career path.
“As state leaders, we are dedicated to ensuring all students leave high school ready for success in college or careers, and we believe that serving our country is one viable pathway a student might choose to pursue,” education leaders in more than half of U.S states wrote. “Unfortunately, the lack of objective, verifiable data on military enlistment and persistence makes it almost impossible for states to consider military service as a successful post-high school outcome and to confirm if students were successfully prepared to serve.”
“Our priority is to ensure that all high school graduates in our states are ready for college and career success. When students decide to pursue a career in the military, we hope that —and would like to know if— they are succeeding in that career choice. Our efforts as a state education system are only improved when we know how our students are doing,” they said.
This isn’t the first time that school districts have attempted to gather information on how well their students are doing in the military. After passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) in 2015, 10 states planned to use military service as one of their indicators of student success. But lacking an effective way to collect that data, that fell by the wayside.
How the data share would work
This time around, state education leaders are proposing development of a data sharing agreement enabling any state to partner with DoD to add state-specific enlistment and service data into their respective longitudinal data systems.
“Allowing state education agencies to connect their data with military enlistment information would open the door for states to consider military service as a successful post-high school outcome. This could lead to an increased number of the 3.7 million high school graduates each year considering the military as a viable career option,” they wrote.
The state-level effort is gaining attention on Capitol Hill as the Navy is pulling out the stops to meet its recruiting goals for 2024, which Navy Rear Adm. Alexis T. Walker, commander of the Navy Recruiting Command, has described as “a challenging environment.” The Navy continues “to scrub our processes to remove inefficiency, add recruiters and expand the pool of qualified and interested candidates,” Walker told a Senate panel in December.
One way to expand that pool of qualified candidates for the Navy and the other military services is to focus on making that key data available to the states.