The Cost Effectiveness of an Education Assistance Program (GI Bill) as a Recruiting Incentive Is Unknown

FPCD-82-12: Published: Jan 26, 1982. Publicly Released: Jan 26, 1982.

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Congress authorized the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct the Educational Assistance Test Program to determine whether expanded educational assistance would improve enlisted recruiting levels and, if so, whether one form of the program was more successful than another. GAO reviewed the program to determine whether it provides sufficient information for Congress to determine the answers to those questions.

GAO believes that congressional action on a new bill which relies on the results of the Educational Assistance Test Program would not be warranted because the test's limited scope did not provide Congress with sufficient information. The severe recruiting problems which the services were experiencing when the bill was introduced have recently improved, reducing the urgency for immediate passage of the bill. All recruitment incentives and management tools influence an individual's decision to enlist; however, the program has provided no clear answers as to the relative cost effectiveness of each option or the relative influence each has on an enlistment decision. It has been suggested that cash bonuses could attract more new recruits, at less cost, than educational assistance. However, a Navy study suggests that educational assistance may cost nearly six times as much as an enlistment bonus program. Several problems were encountered in the implementation of the program: (1) the consistency of notifying qualified applicants of the educational assistance benefits was not assured; (2) the number of occupations covered by the test program varied substantially among the services; and (3) recruiting officials in each service believe that the advertising campaign was insufficient.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Whether or not to enact a new peacetime GI Bill continues to be hotly debated in both the House and Senate. Numerous versions of a GI Bill have been introduced and extensive hearings have been held, some at which GAO has testified. Given these circumstances, it seems that the recommendations of this report have been overtaken by events.

    Matter: Congress should enact legislation which would authorize selected educational assistance benefits for the period of the test. These benefits could be similar to those provided under the Educational Assistance Test Program.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Whether or not to enact a new peacetime GI Bill continues to be hotly debated in both the House and Senate. Numerous versions of a GI Bill have been introduced and extensive hearings have been held, some at which GAO has testified. Given these circumstances, it seems that the recommendations of this report have been overtaken by events.

    Matter: Congress should enact legislation which would task the Secretary of Defense with (1) conducting the test in a controlled environment; (2) developing an implementation evaluation plan; and (3) to the extent possible, preventing the reoccurrence of the problems encountered in the Education Assistance Test Program.

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Whether or not to enact a new peacetime GI Bill continues to be hotly debated in both the House and Senate. Numerous versions of a GI Bill have been introduced and extensive hearings have been held, some at which GAO has testified. Given the circumstances, it seems that the recommendations of this report have been overtaken by events.

    Matter: Congress should enact legislation which would task the Secretary of Defense with expanding the scope of the bonus test program to measure the relative cost effectiveness of bonuses and other incentives and management prerogatives, including, but not limited to, educational assistance benefits, proficiency pay, increased recruiting resources, and increased advertising.

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: While GAO still opposes enactment of a GI Bill because it is not a cost effective recruiting or retention incentive, this specific recommendation has been overtaken by events in Congress.

    Matter: Congress should not approve a permanent educational assistance program until DOD has performed a comprehensive test to determine the most cost-effective mix of recruiting incentives needed to attract the necessary quantity and quality of enlistees.

 

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