Service Programs To Reduce Costly Attrition by Developing and Using Biodata Inventories

FPCD-82-27: Published: Mar 12, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 12, 1982.

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GAO reviewed the ongoing personnel research and development efforts of the services to reduce costly first-term attrition by improving the recruit selection program.

Each of the services is progressing in developing and validating similar screening instruments to supplement the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. These biodata inventories allow respondents to describe themselves and are used to predict future behavior. They have long been used by private employers to make hiring and job placement decisions which have resulted in fewer personnel problems. Candidates without a high school diploma are less likely to complete their tours of duty than those who have earned a diploma. The services are enlisting large numbers of the more attrition prone non-high-school graduates. It is predicted that about 44 percent of them will fail to complete their tours. Biodata testing would allow the services to more clearly choose candidates most likely to complete their tours of duty. Both the Army and Air Force have implemented new screening instruments, and the Navy is in the process of validating its instrument. There would be significant advantages and potential cost savings to the Air Force if biodata screening occurred earlier in the selection process. Better use of the resources available within the services for efforts to develop a testing instrument could be realized through a joint services group. However, efforts by a joint services group to develop an instrument were stopped in 1978. Such a program would provide greater assurance that useful testing instruments, once developed, are used as widely as possible in all services to reduce administrative and service staffing demands.

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