Less Expensive Internal Management Options May Be Viable Alternatives for Countering Critical Military Skill Shortages

FPCD-82-16: Published: Apr 19, 1982. Publicly Released: Apr 19, 1982.

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Because the services have requested across-the-board increases and numerous other monetary incentives and benefit packages as inducements to attract and retain enlisted personnel, GAO reviewed the Air Force's effort to determine: (1) the extent and nature of its personnel shortages; (2) what factors it identified as contributing to the shortages; and (3) what the Air Force is doing, and plans to do, to minimize future manpower shortages by modifying personnel management policies and practices.

The Air Force's study indicates that factors causing the critical skill shortages vary by occupation and grade, that some shortages of personnel have resulted from personnel procedures and management practices, and that many shortages can be alleviated by means other than an infusion of monetary packages. Factors which contribute to personnel imbalances include: (1) poor retention; (2) the need for personnel with more technical abilities; (3) decreased recruiting; (4) historical Air Force decision not to separate surplus career airmen who performed satisfactorily at the time of reenlistment; (5) imbalanced grade authorizations in selected occupations; and (6) the equal selection opportunity promotion policy. The Air Force is taking measures to temporarily relieve the shortages these policies have aggravated. The Air Force's approach could serve as a model for all of the services to follow. GAO believes that the services should assure that their requests for new monetary incentives and out of cycle or extraordinary pay increases are submitted only after they have demonstrated that less expensive internal management options are not available. GAO does not believe that the services have adequately demonstrated and justified their needs when requesting approval for monetary inducements to counter critical skill shortages. They have primarily addressed recruiting and retention issues by requesting more money and have not adequately informed Congress of other management actions which have caused, aggravated, or could alleviate the skilled personnel shortages.

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