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My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 3, 2022

Coast Guard removes barriers to boost recruiting 

By Kathy Murray, MyCG Writer 

The Coast Guard is adjusting certain eligibility standards to make it easier to recruit qualified candidates in a tight labor market.  

The policy changes will allow more flexibility around requirements regarding dependents and single parents, debt-to-income ratios, and maximum age – all areas where existing standards might discourage otherwise competitive candidates from considering the service. 

The effort is part of the commandant’s vision to transform our total workforce by deploying innovative recruiting processes and the Ready Workforce 2030 initiative. In July, Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan told the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation that the Service expects to fall short of the recruits targeted for the year, which means not filling the pipeline to meet mission needs both now and in the future.  

Removing so-called barriers to accession, such as the current rule that single parents cannot enlist in the Coast Guard, is one way to do this. Currently, recruiters often waive requirements like these for particularly promising applicants. But the concern is that even having the rule on the books might discourage otherwise suitable candidates from applying. 

The modifications won’t automatically guarantee someone who qualifies for a waiver can enlist, but it will at least allow recruiters to bring them in for an interview. 

Here’s a summary of the previous rules the Coast Guard initiative adjusted for all recruits and what the new rules look like:  

Dependents/Single Parents:

  • Previous rule: Coast Guard doesn’t allow single parents to enlist. 
  • New rule: Single parents can apply with an approved waiver. They must provide a notarized and documented dependent care plan to be approved prior to enlistment.    

Debt-to-Income ratio:

  • Previous rule:  Officers can have a debt of up to 80% of their income, enlisted personnel are capped at a ratio of 30%. The concern is that coming in with a high debt can make a recruit a target, as well as affect security clearances.  
  • New rule: All applicants can now have an 80% debt-to-income ratio. Personnel with unsecured debt above 50% of projected pay and allowances will be enrolled in a Personnel Financial Management Program at their first unit. 

Maximum age:

  • Previous rule: Maximum age of 35 to enlist in the Coast Guard. Direct Commission Engineer (DCE), Direct Commission Environmental Manager (DCEM), Direct Commission Intelligence Officer (DCIO), Direct Commission Physicians Assistant (DCPA), Direct Commission Selected School (DCSS), Licensed Officer of the Merchant Marine (LOMM), Direct Commission Maritime Academy Graduate (MARGRAD), Prior-trained Military Officer (PTMO) must be no older than 40. Direct Commission Aviators and Officer Candidate Schools (OCS-R, OCS-T) may be no older than 34. 
  • New Rule: Raises maximum enlistment age to 42. 

Raises maximum officer accession age for DCE, DCIO, DCL, DCPA, DCSS, LOMM, MARGRAD, PTMO, OCS-R and OCS-T programs to 41. Changes maximum age for Direct Commission Aviators to 36. 

Additional areas are being looked at and will be announced in the future.