Navy Expands Uniform Policy to Permit Fitness Trackers and Smartwatches

All Navy personnel gained official authorization to wear smartwatches and fitness trackers while in uniform. 

In a new attire- and grooming-centered policy update, the military branch extended its permissions to allow for the technology-based, biometric-capturing wearables. This standard is set to go into effect 60 days after the document’s publication.

“The policy change recognizes technology commonly utilized by sailors and society on a daily basis,” LT Travis Callaghan, a public affairs officer for the Chief of Naval Personnel, told Nextgov on Thursday. “Additionally, inclusion of the fitness trackers supports our sailor’s self-health awareness at all times.”

While in uniform, sailors and all other officials can wear one fitness tracker and one wristwatch or smartwatch simultaneously—but each on a different wrist, according to the update. Bracelets can’t be worn on the same arms as those devices. Further, only smartwatches and trackers in specific colors outlined in the policy are permitted.

This nascent standard was listed as the last among a variety in the document. Via it, Navy insiders are also now approved to include punctuation marks in their uniform name tags, name patches, or name tapes—if their legal names contain accents or otherwise. Women are granted permission to sport very-short-but-not-bald hairstyles, even those that show their scalps. And men can wear bald, flat topped, faded, and high and tight styles—though bald with sideburns isn’t allowed. Updates associated with sunglasses, swimwear, earrings, women’s shoes and more are also listed.

On Tuesday, Navy officials said these shifts are the result of Fleet feedback, uniform-focused working group discussions, listening sessions, and directions from leadership. The update also aligns with the branch’s diversity equity and inclusion initiatives and supports its Sailor 2025 objectives to attract and retain strong talent.

Callaghan confirmed that this move marks the first time these devices have ever been explicitly incorporated into uniform standards. “Although [they] were being worn prior to announcing formal policy, it was determined official guidance for wear with Navy uniforms is warranted,” he noted.

Smartwatches and fitness trackers are modern, wrist-worn accessories that perform multiple functions and can connect to the internet and GPS. Fitness trackers generally capture details around wearers’ activities and detect information regarding walking steps, running distance, heart rate, sleep patterns and swimming laps. Smartwatches can also record information such as heart rate and other vital signs, but are more like mini-computers with access to mobile applications. 

The Navy and other military branches have considered equipping personnel with such devices to perform a range of uses. However, the wearables are designed to capture location data and connect to the web, which presents some cybersecurity risks. A couple years ago, for instance, a website and app used to collect athletic information with GPS data, compiled users’ data in a heatmap and inadvertently disclosed location of multiple overseas military bases. The Pentagon later banned all personnel from using geolocation services on their personal and government-issued devices in all “operational areas.”

In the policy update, Navy officials noted “smartwatches and fitness trackers are subject to applicable security regulations.”

“We cannot comment on specific security procedures and protocols, but our policy ensures sailors know that security regulations take precedence over this uniform policy that allows [them] to wear this type of technology,” Callaghan said. “It is important to note that we have established the uniform policy to ensure a professional and uniform appearance, while maximizing a sailor’s opportunity to choose wearable technology as they see fit.”



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