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March 8, 2007: 

The Honorable Robert M. Gates: 
The Secretary of Defense: 

Subject: Military Personnel: DMDC Data on Officers' Commissioning 
Programs is Insufficiently Reliable and Needs to be Corrected: 

Dear Secretary Gates: 

The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) is a key Department of Defense 
(DOD) support organization that, among other things, generates reports 
for defense organizations such as the military services, the Office of 
the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff. External organizations 
such as GAO and federally funded research and development centers also 
rely on DMDC for quantitative data and analyses pertaining to a wide 
variety of issues, including the numbers of DOD personnel in specified 
occupations or demographic groups, servicemembers' attitudes, and 
compensation.[Footnote 1] 

DMDC reports to DOD's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for 
Personnel and Readiness. In describing its databases, DMDC states that 
it maintains the largest archive of personnel, manpower, training, and 
financial data in DOD. It also notes that the personnel data are broad 
in scope and extend back to the early 1970s covering all services, all 
components of the total force (active duty, guard, reserve, and 
civilian), and all phases of the personnel life cycle (accession, 
separation, and retirement). DMDC data serve as the basis for DOD's 
annual Population Representation in the Military Forces which, among 
other things, provides information on the numbers of officers who were 
accessed into the military from each service's various commissioning 
programs: military academies, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), 
Officer Candidate Schools (OCS: for the Army, Navy, and Air Force) and 
Officer Training School (OTS: for the Air Force). 

On January 19, 2007, we issued a report on officer accessions, 
retention, and foreign language training.[Footnote 2] The purpose of 
this report is to bring to your attention reliability issues with DMDC 
data that we encountered while preparing our report and to provide you 
with our recommendations to address these issues. 

To prepare this report, we drew upon the work from our January 2007 
report. As part of that examination, we requested that DMDC provide us 
with information on officers commissioned into the four active duty 
services--Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force--during fiscal years 
2001, 2003, and 2005. During our data reliability assessments, we 
reviewed documentation on DMDC's databases and checked the data to 
determine if they were consistent with information that we had obtained 
from some of the commissioning programs and DOD's annual Population 
Representation in the Military Forces. After we found that some of the 
information from DMDC did not agree with the information that some of 
the commissioning programs had provided during our site visits, we 
requested information from the services for each of their commissioning 
programs in each of the three fiscal years cited. While we did not 
conduct independent analyses using the services' databases, our review 
of documentation on these databases as well as a comparison of service- 
provided information to similar information from other sources and for 
other time periods suggest that the service-provided findings were 
sufficiently reliable for the purposes of that report. We then compared 
the DMDC-and service-provided information to quantify the extent to 
which the databases resulted in different findings concerning the 
numbers of officers commissioned each year from the various 
commissioning programs. We conducted our review from August 2006 
through November 2006 in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards. 

Results in Brief: 

We found the information that DMDC provided to us on the number of 
officers accessed from DOD's various commissioning programs to be 
insufficiently reliable for use in our January 2007 report. Government 
auditing standards, which are applicable to all federal agencies 
including DOD, require that data be valid and reliable when the data 
are significant to the auditor's findings.[Footnote 3] More 
specifically, federal internal control standards require that data 
control activities, such as edit checks, verification, and 
reconciliation, be conducted and documented to help provide reasonable 
assurance that agency objectives are being met. We found discrepancies 
when we compared the DMDC-provided information on the number of 
officers accessed from DOD's commissioning programs (the academies, 
ROTC, and OCS/OTS) to information provided by the services. In the most 
extreme example of a discrepancy, DMDC-provided information indicated 
that 17 officers were accessed from the Marine Corps' ROTC program in 
fiscal year 2005, but Marine Corps-supplied information indicated that 
160 officers were assessed. DMDC also provided us with information on 
the total number of officer accessions in fiscal year 2005, which were 
6 per cent to 39 percent higher than the total numbers the four 
services provided us. Until DMDC corrects these data problems, it will 
be unable to provide policymakers with sufficiently reliable data upon 
which to base decisions related to officers. Therefore, we are 
recommending that DMDC reconcile its data with the services' data on 
officer accessions from the various commissioning programs for current 
and past officers and verify the accuracy of findings produced with the 
corrected data. 

In responding to a draft of this report, DOD partially concurred with 
our recommendation to reconcile DMDC and service data and did not 
concur with our recommendation to verify the corrected data. DOD 
stated, among other things, that we provided DMDC and the services with 
apparently different specifications in our requests for analyses. While 
we initially requested information on "all officers" from DMDC versus 
"commissioned officers" from the services, we clarified our 
specifications with DMDC staff before any analyses were begun. DOD also 
stated that DMDC has a longstanding policy to not correct historical 
data. In our evaluation of DOD's comments, we cite DOD and 
governmentwide policies that run contrary to DMDC's policy and 
emphasize the need for valid and reliable data. DOD's comments are 
provided in enclosure I, and our evaluation of the comments appear at 
the end of this report. 

Discrepancies Found in DMDC-and Service-Supplied Information on the 
Officers Accessed from the Various Commissioning Programs: 

We decided not to use the information DMDC provided to us for our 
January 2007 report due to our concerns about the reliability of the 
data on officers' commissioning programs--a primary focus of our 
examinations of how officers were accessed into the military and how 
long they remained on active duty. Government auditing standards 
require that data be sufficiently valid and reliable when the data are 
significant to the auditor's findings.[Footnote 4] More specifically, 
federal internal control standards require that data control 
activities, such as edit checks, verification, and reconciliation, be 
conducted and documented to help provide reasonable assurance that 
agency objectives are being met. 

During our analyses, we found discrepancies when we compared the DMDC- 
provided information on the number of officers commissioned from each 
program to the numbers provided by some of the commissioning programs. 
To address these discrepancies, each service's personnel headquarters 
office subsequently supplied us with the numbers of officers 
commissioned in fiscal year 2005.[Footnote 5] For all four services, 
the DMDC-provided numbers for total accessions were greater than the 
service-provided numbers: by about 28 percent for Army, 6 percent for 
Navy, 39 percent for Marine Corps, and 10 percent for Air Force (see 
table). While many of the DMDC-provided numbers for specific 
commissioning programs shared this pattern of being higher than the 
service-provided numbers, some discrepancies were in the opposite 
direction. For example, relative to the DMDC-supplied data, the Marine 
Corps-supplied information showed about 9 times (17 versus 160) as many 
officers being commissioned through ROTC in fiscal year 2005. In 
contrast, the Army-supplied number for officers commissioned in fiscal 
year 2005 from its OCS was about 26 percent larger than DMDC's number. 

Table 1: Discrepancies in the Numbers of Officers Commissioned from 
Different Programs[A] for Fiscal Year 2005: 

Army. 

Service and organization supplying information: DMDC; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 1,000; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 3,256; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 1,069; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 2,401; 
Total: 7,726. 

Service and organization supplying information: Army headquarters; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 954; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 3,067; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 1,352; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 672; 
Total: 6,045. 

Service and organization supplying information: Difference; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 46; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 189; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: -283; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 1,729; 
Total: 1,681. 

Navy. 

Service and organization supplying information: DMDC; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 788; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 869; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 477; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 1,590; 
Total: 3,724. 

Service and organization supplying information: Navy Headquarters; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 749; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 825; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 586; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 1,346; 
Total: 3,506. 

Service and organization supplying information: Difference; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 39; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 44; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: -109; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 244; 
Total: 218. 

Marine Corps. 

Service and organization supplying information: DMDC; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 209; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 17; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 1,383; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 557; 
Total: 2,166. 

Service and organization supplying information: Marine Corps 
Headquarters; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 213; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 160; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 460; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 728; 
Total: 1,561. 

Service and organization supplying information: Difference; 
Commissioning program: Academy: -4; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: -143; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 923; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: -171; 
Total: 605. 

Air Force. 

Service and organization supplying information: DMDC; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 990; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 2,582; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 873; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 1,037; 
Total: 5,482. 

Service and organization supplying information: Air Force Headquarters; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 918; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 2,391; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 790; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 891; 
Total: 4,990. 

Service and organization supplying information: Difference; 
Commissioning program: Academy: 72; 
Commissioning program: ROTC: 191; 
Commissioning program: OCS/OTS: 83; 
Commissioning program: Direct/other/unknown: 146; 
Total: 492. 

Source: GAO analysis of data from DMDC and the services. 

[A] The four commissioning sources identified in the table were those 
provided by DMDC. Although other units supplying information provided 
additional subcategories of commissioning source (e.g., ROTC 
scholarship and ROTC non-scholarship), we used the four DMDC categories 
to facilitate the presentation of the information. 

[End of table] 

We do not know the causes for the discrepancies with DMDC's data 
because DMDC officials did not respond to our request for additional 
information or assistance in reconciling the problems found when we 
were preparing our January 2007 report. However, our prior work has 
shown reliability problems with other DMDC data and analyses. For 
example, in September 2006, we found problems with the reliability of 
mobilization data for reserve soldiers and that DMDC's processes for 
data analyses need improvement.[Footnote 6] When we shared our findings 
with the services prior to the publication of our September 2006 
report, service officials suggested that some of the data discrepancies 
may have been introduced by DMDC analysts when they made changes as the 
result of their quality check procedures. Although this may be an 
issue, there could also have been errors in the creation of the files 
sent to DMDC by the services. 

Findings produced from unreliable DMDC data on officer commissioning 
programs can lead to adverse consequences. First, it could impair 
officials' ability to make sound data-driven decisions. Second, the 
inability to use data from a single DOD-wide source--DMDC--results in 
redundant efforts. In the present instance, the four services had to 
each conduct the same analyses. Third, DOD-wide information on 
personnel occupations and other variables that are coded differently in 
the service-specific databases are difficult or impossible to compare. 
For our January 2007 report, we were unable to conduct planned analyses 
on officer occupations because the services do not use the DOD-wide 
occupational codes that DMDC uses to facilitate service-to-service 
comparisons for that type of information. 

Recommendations for Executive Action: 

We recommend that you direct the Under Secretary of Defense for 
Personnel and Readiness to require the Defense Manpower Data Center to 
take the following two actions: 

* reconcile its data with data from the services on accessions from the 
services' commissioning programs for current and past officers, and: 

* verify the accuracy of its corrected database through further 
analyses such as demographic breakouts (such as race, gender, and year 
accessed) for each officer commissioning program. 

Agency Comments and Our Evaluation: 

In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD partially concurred 
with one of our recommendations and did not concur with our other 
recommendation. We continue to believe that both of our recommendations 
have merit and should be implemented as soon as possible to prevent 
further distribution and use of DMDC reports that are based on data of 
insufficient reliability as well as provide Congress, DOD decision 
makers, and others with the accurate information needed to take 
informed actions. DOD's comments are reproduced in enclosure I. 

DOD partially concurred with our recommendation to require DMDC to 
reconcile its data on current and past officers with data from the 
services on accessions to the services' commissioning programs. The 
department stated that we provided DMDC and the services with 
apparently different specifications in requests for analyses and that 
reconciliation of the DMDC and service differences may not be a 
reasonable request. We disagree with DOD's suggestion that we provided 
DMDC and the services with apparently different specifications in our 
data requests. Although we requested information on "all officers" from 
DMDC versus "commissioned officers" from the services in our initial 
request, we clarified our interest in statistics on commissioned 
officers during subsequent interactions with DMDC before its staff 
began their analyses. We used three methods before DMDC began its 
analyses to explicitly indicate that we were concerned with 
commissioned officers only. Those three methods were (1) telephone 
discussions with DMDC staff to discuss our overall engagement questions 
about commissioned officers and the types of information that we 
needed, (2) written instructions that specified that we intended to 
construct tables showing findings by commissioning program, and (3) 
several pages of mocked-up tables that showed DMDC staff that we were 
interested in officer breakouts by commissioning source. Since warrant 
officers do not receive their training through a commissioning program, 
they should not have appeared in the information that DMDC provided us. 
Furthermore, if DOD is indicating that the DMDC information is 
different from those of the services because DMDC included both warrant 
officers and commissioned officers, the DMDC and service findings for 
the Air Force should have been exactly the same since the Air Force 
does not have warrant officers. However, the table presented earlier in 
this report shows that the DMDC-provided information did not match the 
Air Force-provided information. DOD's response also noted that our 
recommendation may not be reasonable because the services may not have 
the individual servicemember records needed for the reconciliation 
analyses. This point is specious. As we noted earlier in this report, 
DMDC conducted its analyses on officers' records that it obtained from 
the services. 

DOD did not concur with our recommendation to require DMDC to verify 
the accuracy of the information in its database by conducting 
additional analyses. The department provided two reasons for its 
nonconcurrence. First, DOD stated that we provided conflicting guidance 
to DMDC and the services when making the data request. We disagree, as 
discussed in the previous paragraph. Second, DOD states that "DMDC has 
a long standing policy to not correct historical data " Again, we 
disagree with DOD's statement, as this policy seems to contradict DOD 
statements that may suggest otherwise. For example, the DOD Performance 
and Accountability Report FY2005[Footnote 7] states, "The DOD is 
committed to providing clear and reliable data to those who use it for 
managing, decision making, and for oversight of the DOD programs. The 
Department also ensures, to the greatest extent possible, that the data 
are quantifiable and verifiable by putting in place internal management 
controls and by being responsive to the insights provided by the 
Department's Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Government 
Accountability Office, and others." DMDC's policy is also counter to 
governmentwide auditing standards[Footnote 8] which require, among 
other things, that officials have implemented policies and practices to 
reasonably ensure that valid and reliable data are obtained, 
maintained, and fairly disclosed in reports. These controls help assure 
management that it is getting valid and reliable information about 
whether programs are operating properly on an ongoing basis. While we 
believe that it is important to understand why earlier and later 
analyses on the same database could result in different findings, DOD's 
rationale for continuing to supply erroneous findings to decision 
makers is inconsistent with governmentwide and DOD-wide internal 
control standards which specify the importance of valid and reliable 
data. When DMDC staff completed our data reliability questionnaire 
asking about the completeness and accuracy of the data, they said "We 
feel that it is accurate and can be used for analysis and decision 
making." The inconsistencies that we identified in the table in this 
report suggest otherwise. 

We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional 
committees. We will make copies available to others upon request. This 
report will be available at no charge on GAO's Web site at 
http://www.gao.gov. 

If you or your staff have any additional questions about the 
reliability of officer commissioning data, please contact me at (202) 
512-5559 or stewartd@gao.gov. Contact points for our Offices of 
Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on the last 
page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions to the 
report are listed in enclosure II. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

Derek B. Stewart: 
Director, Defense Capabilities and Management: 

[End of section] 

Enclosure I: Comments from the Department of Defense: 

Personnel And Readiness: 
Under Secretary Of Defense: 
4000 Defense Pentagon: 
Washington, D.C. 20301-4000: 

Mar 0 1 2007: 
Mr. Derek B. Stewart: 
Director: 
Defense Capabilities and Management: 
U.S. Government Accountability Office: 
441 G Street, NW: 
Washington, DC 20548: 

Dear Mr. Stewart: 

This is the Department of Defense (DoD) response to the Government 
Accountability Office (GAO) draft report, GAO-07-372R, "Military 
Personnel: DMDC Data on Officers' Commissioning Programs is 
Insufficiently Reliable and Needs to be Corrected," dated January 25, 
2007. DoD has reviewed the subject draft report and strongly non- 
concurs with Recommendation 2. Our response to the specific 
recommendations listed in the report is enclosed. 

Our strong non-concurrence with Recommendation 2 is based on the fact 
that the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC)'s data was deemed to be 
incorrect based on reports provided independently by the Services. Our 
initial research in response to this allegation indicates that the 
problem is not incorrect data, but rather that the Services and DMDC 
were asked to provide different information to the GAO. At no time was 
the underlying data or the methodology used to generate the reports 
compared by the GAO auditors. Specifically, DMDC was requested to 
provide a report of "all" officers to GAO, which GAO then compared to 
reports from the Services containing just commissioned officers. 

Sincerely, 

Signed by: 

David S.C. Chu: 

Enclosure: 
As stated: 

GAO Draft Report - Dated January 25, 2007 GAO-07-372R: 

"Military Personnel: DMDC Data on Officers' Commissioning Programs is 
Insufficiently Reliable and Needs to be Corrected": 

Department Of Defense Comments To The Recommendations: 

Recommendation 1: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) to 
require the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) to reconcile its data 
with data from the Services regarding accessions from the Services' 
commissioning programs for current and past officers. 

DOD Response: Partially concur. The DMDC will attempt to reconcile the 
officer accession data that appears in the draft report to DMDC's 
report. However, given that the Services were apparently provided 
different specifications upon which to base its reports than those 
provided to DMDC, and not knowing specifically what specifications the 
Services did use to generate their numbers or having the individual 
member records available to compare to DMDC's, this may not be a 
reasonable request. 

Recommendation 2: The GAO recommended that the Secretary of Defense 
direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) to 
require the DMDC to verify the accuracy of its corrected database 
through further analyses such as demographic breakouts (such as race, 
gender, and year accessed) for each officer commission program. 

DOD Response: Strongly non-concur. First, the real issue appears not to 
be that the data is incorrect, but rather that the GAO is providing 
conflicting guidance to various sources when they make requests for 
data. Secondly, the DMDC has a long standing policy to not correct 
historical data as the Service personnel applications are the 
"authoritative source" for military personnel data and it would be 
inappropriate for the DMDC to change data that was historically 
presented by the Services as DMDC has it archived. 

[End of section] 

Enclosure IIGAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Derek B. Stewart (202) 512-5559 or stewartd@gao.gov: 

Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact above, Jack E. Edwards, Assistant Director; 
Laura G. Czohara; Alissa H. Czyz; Barbara A. Gannon; Cynthia L. Grant; 
Julia C. Matta; Jean L. McSween; Bethann E. Ritter; Angela D. Thomas; 
and Adam J. Yu made key contributions to this report. 

[End of section] 

(350950): 

FOOTNOTES 

[1] For example, see GAO, Military Personnel: Reporting Additional 
Servicemember Demographics Could Enhance Congressional Oversight, GAO- 
05-952 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 22, 2005) and Military Personnel: More 
DOD Actions Needed to Address Servicemembers' Personal Financial 
Management Issues, GAO-05-348 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 26, 2005). 

[2] GAO, Military Personnel: Strategic Plan Needed to Address Army's 
Emerging Officer Accession and Retention Challenges, GAO-07-224 
(Washington, D.C.: Jan. 19, 2007). 

[3] GAO, Government Auditing Standards: 2003 Revision, GAO-03-673G 
(Washington, D.C.: June 2003). 

[4] GAO-03-673G. 

[5] Although not discussed here, we found similar discrepancies in the 
DMDC-and service-provided information for fiscal years 2001 and 2003, 
the other years that we examined in this report and in GAO-07-224. In 
addition, data from DOD's Population Representation in the Military 
Forces showed that DMDC's findings were consistent with previously 
published DOD-wide data for officers accessed in fiscal year 2003. We 
could not make the same comparisons for fiscal year 2005 because DOD 
had not published its Population Representation in the Military Forces 
report for fiscal year 2005 at the time that we completed the analyses 
documented in this report. 

[6] GAO, Military Personnel: DOD and the Services Need to Take 
Additional Steps to Improve Mobilization Data for the Reserve 
Components, GAO-06-1068 (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 20, 2006). 

[7] DOD, DOD Performance and Accountability Report FY2005 (Arlington, 
Va.: Nov. 15, 2005), p. 59. 

[8] GAO-03-673G. 

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