Navy ends high-year tenure policy

The Navy is ending its high-year tenure policy, which booted enlisted sailors out of active duty and into the Fleet Reserve if they didn’t advance up the ranks within certain timelines.

Instead, the Navy announced Monday in a naval administrative message that it will make permanent the so-called “High-Year Tenure Plus” program, which prohibits commands from separating or involuntarily transferring active-duty sailors who fail to advance under the high-year tenure policy’s parameters.

High-Year Tenure Plus began as a pilot program last year and will become permanent on Oct. 1, 2024, when the pilot program timeframe expires. It applies to all active-duty sailors as well some reservists.

The Navy introduced the pilot program last year in an attempt to improve retention, amid an historically dire recruiting environment for all the services.

At the time, service officials said they expected that at least 1,600 sailors would be impacted by the change.

“This suspension means more of our talented and experienced Sailors can stay in the Navy,” Rear Adm. James Waters III, director of the Military Personnel Plans and Policy Division, said in a December news release. “By removing this barrier to retaining career-minded Sailors, the Navy is broadening career progression opportunities for Sailors and allowing them the opportunity to advance to the next higher paygrade.”

Waters also said the move aimed to give sailors who wanted to stay Navy the chanceto do so, in light of challenges recruiting new sailors.

A spokesperson for the Chief of Naval personnel did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Navy Times Monday.

When the Navy unveiled the High-Year Tenure Plus last year, service officials said those who have surpassed their high-year tenure threshold could apply for new jobs in the MyNavy Assignment portal. Additionally, they could extend and complete another full-length tour at their current command, allowing them to remain at sea, return to sea, or fill a shore billet.

The change comes after the Navy announced this summer that junior sailors will automatically advance to the rank of E-4 in 30 months for most career fields.

According to Navy Recruiting Command, the service missed its active-duty enlisted recruiting goals for fiscal year 2023 by more than 7,450 accessions. Military leaders claim more thorough medical screenings, fewer Americans eligible to serve and low civilian unemployment are factors contributing to recruiting difficulties.

Meanwhile, the Navy surpassed its retention goals for FY23 — keeping more than 110 percent of sailors with up to 14 years of service. Altogether, a total of 35,175 active-duty enlisted sailors decided to stay in uniform, an increase from the Navy’s projected target of 31,823 personnel.

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