It turns out that propping up and embracing enlisted drag queens isn’t the answer to the U.S. Navy’s recruiting crisis after all.
On Tuesday, Navy Recruiting Command revealed that the branch had failed to meet its recruiting goals for the 2023 fiscal year. According to the Navy Times, the branch brought in “30,236 new active duty sailors in fiscal 2023, falling short of the 37,700 target number accessions for the year.” The Navy also missed its targets for new active-duty officers and reserve officers by 452 and 773 enlistees, respectively.
During her Senate confirmation hearing last month, Acting Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti projected that the Navy would miss its FY23 recruiting targets by 7,000 sailors. According to Franchetti, that estimation is better than one given by the Navy at the beginning of FY23, which predicted a 13,000 shortfall in new recruits.
To combat the ongoing crisis, the Navy increased its maximum enlistment age from 39 to 41 in November “in an effort to allow more civilians to join its ranks.” Nearly a month later, it lowered its entrance test standards. And in June, the branch announced further plans to extend the work week for its recruiters from five days to six to address existing shortfalls but backed away from the policy after facing backlash from sailors.
Among the probable factors contributing to the Navy’s recruiting dilemma is the waning health of America’s youth. A Pentagon study released last year, for example, found that 77 percent of young Americans “would not qualify for military service without a waiver due to being overweight, using drugs or having mental and physical health problems.”
These concerns prompted the Navy to develop “The Future Sailor Preparatory Course,” a program launched in April aimed at helping “prospective recruits meet the Navy’s body-fat entry standards.” The initiative also focuses on “academic coursework and basic militarization,” according to the Navy Times.
Another likely factor hindering the Navy’s ability to bring in new talent is the U.S. military’s embrace of DEI, a neo-Marxist ideology that dismisses merit in favor of personal characteristics such as race. In May 2021, for instance, Navy leadership issued a memo outlining an action plan to promote DEI throughout the branch.
More recently, the Navy got caught employing an enlisted drag queen to help with its “Digital Ambassador” online recruiting program. After facing backlash from military veterans and congressional Republicans, the Navy confirmed in a letter to Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville last month that the program has been discontinued.
Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley — the active-duty drag queen who partook in the “Digital Ambassador” program — has since been referred to the Navy for investigation for allegedly violating existing military protocols. According to the complaint filed by America First Legal, Kelley purportedly “engaged in partisan activity, behaved in ways that discredit the military, publicly criticized his command, and misused his uniform for personal gain” while serving in the Navy.