U.S. Navy Loosens Physical Fitness Requirements

Sailors ride stationary bikes during a physical fitness assessment aboard the carrier USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 2, 2012 (USN)

Published Dec 22, 2017 6:59 PM by The Maritime Executive

Faced with a new directive to raise its headcount by 4,000 sailors, the U.S. Navy has decided to forgive failed fitness tests for nearly 50,000 servicemembers and to alter a related policy requiring mandatory discharges. 

In 2015, the Navy began to require discharges for sailors who failed two fitness tests in a three-year period. This policy resulted in 1,700 individuals leaving active duty during 2016, according to Navy Times. Friday’s announcement suspends all such pending discharges, and it will immediately affect enlisted sailors and officers who were scheduled to be separated from the service in March. Roughly 700 individuals could have been subject to discharge in coming months under the previous rules. 

Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke, the chief of naval personnel, cast the change as a necessary step for maintaining the strength of the Navy. “My Number One priority is to keep the fleet properly manned . . . Retention of every capable sailor is critical to the operational readiness of the Navy,” Vice Adm. Burke wrote in announcing the change. “The goal of the Navy’s physical readiness program is to maintain a minimum prescribed level of fitness necessary for world-wide deployment and to maintain a sailor’s long-term health and wellness.”

Although mandatory discharge will end, those who can't pass the fitness test will still face repercussions: sailors who fail will be ineligible for promotion until they can successfully complete the test, and they will be required to participate in a remedial training program until they pass. In addition, failing the test twice in a row will disbar enlisted personnel from reenlisting. For officers, it could lead to retirement or separation from the service. 

The Navy's Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) is conducted twice a year for each servicemember, and consists of a medical screening; an assessment of body composition; and an exercise test including curl-ups, pull-ups, and a choice of a timed run, timed swim, stationary bike workout or elliptical workout. The minimum standards vary by age and gender.