Personnel And Cost Reductions Possible Through Elimination Of Personal Services At Officers' Quarters And Closed Messes

FPCD-75-150: Published: Jun 4, 1975. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1975.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated possible reductions through the elimination of personal services at officers' quarters and closed messes, focusing on: (1) different ways the military services fund and operate bachelor officers' quarters (BOQ) and officers' closed messes; (2) Navy and Marine Corps support of BOQs and closed messes with appropriated funds and military personnel and the cost of these operations; (3) Navy stewards' duties; and (4) possible savings produced by implementing standardized Defense operating policies for BOQs and messes.

GAO noted that: (1) military officers who are unmarried or separated from their families can be accommodated in BOQs at most military installations; (2) each military service has officers' clubs, or open messes, that are supported primarily by nonappropriated funds; (3) the Navy and Marine Corps also have closed messes which operate with appropriated funds; (4) during fiscal year (FY) 1974, $84 million of appropriated funds were used to operate and maintain closed mess facilities by the Navy and Marine Corps; (5) about $77 million were for salaries of enlisted personnel and civilians assigned to closed mess facilities, who performed a variety of personal services for officers; (6) the Navy is the only military service which has enlisted men perform servant type duties for officers below flag rank; (7) on January 1, 1975, the Navy merged the steward and commissaryman ratings into the mess management specialist rating to attract new recruits and eliminate image problems associated with the steward rating; (8) GAO believes that most personal services being provided to Navy and Marine Corps officers should not be provided at government expense; (9) precise calculations of the cost savings obtainable could not be made since it would have been too time consuming; (10) however, based on limited tests, GAO estimates that annual cost savings of $32.6 million could be obtained if the Secretary of the Navy requires: (a) officers below flag rank to maintain their living quarters; and (b) meals on ships to be served buffet or cafeteria style; (11) appropriated fund support provided Navy and Marine Corps closed mess dining rooms is not reflected in closed mess financial operating statements; (12) accordingly, when both appropriated funds and operating revenue are considered, the cost of preparing and serving meals greatly exceeds the price charged; (13) at four closed messes included in this review, the average cost to prepare a meal was more than three times the selling price; (14) although the average price charged for a meal in a closed mess is low, relatively few officers eat there; and (15) GAO estimates that eliminating closed mess dining facilities at shore installations would save $19.1 million.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should determine whether valid military reasons, as contemplated in 10 U.S.C. 7579, still exist, which require the continued use of enlisted personnel and civilians in a personal service capacity. Because the average cost of each meal served in closed messes exceeds the price changed by a factor of three or more, and relatively few officers actively use their dining privilege, the Secretary of Defense should determine whether the closed mess dining function is cost-beneficial and not duplicative of the open mess system.

    Agency Affected:


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