In NAVADMIN 304/17, the Navy cancelled the provisions of the Military Personnel Manual (MILPERSMAN) that permit the service to separate enlisted members for two or more Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) failures.  The message also cancelled certain pending separations for PFA failure and permitted certain Sailors pending separation for PFA failure to opt to remain the service.  The message slightly amended the policy for officers who fail multitple PFAs, making it more likely the officer will be retained until otherwise separated for a failure to promote.

This is a DRASTIC shift in policy from 10 years, when the Navy made PFA failures a mandatory separation processing basis – meaning that commanding officers had to process for separation those Sailors that had multiple PFA failures.  The Navy was up-front that it was using PFA failures as a force-shaping tool in a period where the size of the Navy was shrinking and it wanted to keep those Sailors that could both perform the mission and meet all standards, including the fitness and weight standards.  Until NAVADMIN 304/17 was issued on December 22, 2017, multiple PFA failures remained a mandatory basis for administrative separation processing.  According to the message, the Navy is growing and needs to retain Sailors, even if they can’t meet the PFA standards, at least until the end of their enlistment.

But just because the Navy is not separating members for PFA failures right now doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences for failing the PFA.  The message outlines a series of harsh administrative consequences for failing a PFA at certain critical times – if a Sailor failed the PFA, he or she will remain ineligible for reenlistment or advancement until a PFA is passed and the command recommends retention or advancement.

Is this a smart move for the Navy?  Fiscally, it probably is.  The Navy invests a lot of time, effort, and money into training every Sailor and officer that enters the service.  Separation prior to completion of obligated service represents a loss of that investment.

So congratulations to those of you who have trouble making weight or doing push-ups.  You won’t be involuntarily separated prior to the end of your obligated service.

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