- The Washington Times
Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Some sailors may be looking a bit more salty in the near future if the Navy allows the return of beards to the fleet.

In an interview with Defense One, a website that covers national security issues, Adm. Michael Gilday, the chief of naval operations, indicated he’s at least open to rethinking the service’s mandatory clean shaven policy.

Unlike the other services, the Navy allowed sailors to have beards as late as the 1970s. But the relaxed grooming standards were tightened up during the Reagan administration and they were required to shave off the whiskers. That has been the Navy’s policy ever since.

“[Allowing beards] is something that we’re taking a look at with the inclusion and diversity task force,” Adm. Gilday said.

The task force was set up by Navy leadership to address racism, sexism and other bias issues in the wake of nationwide protests following the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Early in his tenure, Adm. Gilday restricted beards even further by halting waivers, known in the Navy as “no shave chits.” Some sailors sought the waivers because of razor bumps that occur when beard hair curls back into the skin after shaving.

“Some have argued that I moved too fast with that decision and that some were disadvantaged by it,” Adm. Gilday said in the interview.

Adm. Gilday said his concern about beards has always been focused on safety and whether they would prevent a seal on breathing devices.

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