Navy Offers Service Extensions to Sailors as Job Market Enters Free Fall

Sailors recite the oath of enlistment during their reenlistment ceremony.
Master-At-Arms 3rd Class Thomas Cox, left, and Master-At-Arms 2nd Class Gatlin Miller, right, recite the oath of enlistment during their reenlistment ceremony at the Lincoln Memorial. (U.S. Navy/Elizabeth Kearns)

The Navy has begun offering 6- to 12-month extensions to sailors planning to retire or leave the service, in an effort to ease the impacts of the novel coronavirus pandemic and avoid having them enter a job market that is in free fall, service officials said.

"The Navy is accepting applications from officers and enlisted personnel who desire to delay their separation or retirement" in an effort "to mitigate the effects of COVID-19," the Navy said in a March 20 administrative notice signed by Vice Adm. John Nowell, the chief of personnel.

"All service members interested in extending are invited to apply, but priority for approval will be given to those service members filling sea duty and critical billets," the notice states, adding that requests must go through detailers, or career advisers, and be received by July 1.

Requests will be approved on a case-by-case basis, the Navy said.

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The service's offer of extensions comes as the economy staggers under the COVID-19 pandemic's impact and signs of a cratering job market begin to emerge.

The concerns over a sharp escalation in unemployment rates were borne out Thursday in the weekly report on unemployment claims from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which showed that claims increased tenfold from the week before to a record 3.28 million.

Earlier Thursday, American Legion officials said they were pressing the Defense Department to consider service extensions to allow personnel to wait out the predicted recession and enter the job market at a more opportune time.

Ariel DeJesus, the Legion's assistant employment director, said he is encouraged by what he heard about the Navy and urged all the services to follow suit and offer extensions.

The Navy notice said that sailors who are leaving the service for failing physical fitness tests could get a chance to reenlist by seeking an extension.

Service members who are separating for failing the Physical Fitness Assessment (PFA) could get an extension of their End of Obligated Service (EAOS) date, take the test again in the fall and "potentially regain reenlistment eligibility," the Navy said.

The service also said that enlisted sailors with an approved separation or retirement date who are eligible for Sea Duty Incentive Pay (SDIP) would continue to receive the incentive if their extension requests are approved.

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