Perspectives on the Effectiveness of Service Enlisted Bonus Programs

FPCD-82-70: Published: Aug 23, 1982. Publicly Released: Aug 23, 1982.

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GAO summarized observations and findings from numerous audit and research groups, including those of GAO, on the armed services' enlistment and reenlistment bonus programs.

A major problem for the armed services has been recruiting and retaining quality people with the right mix of skills and experience to perform their mission. The basic pay and allowances system currently in use by the military does not provide an effective mechanism for correcting personnel recruiting and retention problems. To help correct the skill imbalances among military personnel, Congress authorized the selective use of cash bonuses to induce people to join or stay in military occupations where there are critical shortages. Department of Defense (DOD) officials claim that the bonus programs have been extremely successful and should be continued. Individual bonus award programs must receive a cost-effectiveness comparison with other possible ways of solving staffing problems. If the current bonus programs are continued, DOD and armed services managers need to administer their programs better and more economically. Improvements are needed in three major areas of program administration: (1) the awarding of bonuses, which should be more selective; (2) the assignment of bonus recipients to their positions; and (3) the recouping of unearned bonuses.

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