Use of Educational Assistance Programs To Improve Military Recruiting and Retention

Gao ID: 120818 March 16, 1983

Testimony was given on the use of post-service educational assistance benefit programs as incentives to improve military recruitment and retention. GAO has found that there has been no across-the-board recruiting or retention problem in the active military forces. However, recruiting a sufficient number of high-quality individuals with the necessary aptitude for highly technical jobs has been a serious problem as well as retaining the right number and quality of people with the right mix of occupational skills and experience. The severity of these problems has been influenced by the unemployment rate and the relative size of the enlistment age youth population, making manpower staffing problems dynamic. Fiscal year 1982 was an outstanding recruiting year for all services. Under most educational assistance proposals, managers would not have: (1) the authority to apply or remove the incentive on a timely basis as the problem increases or decreases; (2) the authority to target the basic incentive to the specific problem area; and (3) the flexibility to adjust the basic incentive as conditions change. GAO found that S. 8 could be strengthened by a requirement stating that the improved educational benefit would be used only if it is the most cost-effective recruitment incentive. The cost-effectiveness of specific S. 8 provisions have not been fully analyzed. GAO noted that the positive features in S. 8 include: a provision for careerists to retain their educational assistance rights until they are discharged; benefits' being paid by the Department of Defense rather than by the Veterans Administration; and the removal of incentives to leave the service to use the benefits. Consideration of S. 667 should also be guided by an evaluation of its impact on the recruiting marketplace, its need, and whether alternative programs would meet the manpower demands in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.

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