Poor Design and Management Hamper Army's Basic Skills Education Program

FPCD-83-19: Published: Jun 20, 1983. Publicly Released: Jun 20, 1983.

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GAO reviewed the Army's basic skills education program to evaluate whether the program: (1) was properly designed to determine the basic skills needed to do Army jobs; and (2) is being effectively implemented at initial entry training bases and permanent duty stations.

GAO found that, after 4 years and $160 million in expenditures, a small percentage of soldiers have achieved the Army's prescribed goals. GAO found examples of program abuse, including ineligible soldiers participating in the program obtaining high school equivalency certificates during on-duty hours. When it designed the program, the Army did not identify the basic skills required for each military job. Implementation problems also have hampered the program. Course hours, duration, and costs differ widely. The Army also has not evaluated the overall effectiveness of its program. Army regulations assign evaluation responsibilities to the Army Adjutant General's Office and direct installation commanders to keep data on program quality and effectiveness. In the fall of 1979, the Army established an evaluation and services division in its Education Directorate to monitor and evaluate the basic skills education program. Studies show that short-term remedial programs do not provide the competency needed to master highly technical material in many Army jobs and that substantial resources would be required to bridge the literacy gap.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army provided policy guidance on selection criteria, but it believes that commanders must have the flexibility to schedule and select participants in a manner compatible with installation mission requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should require and provide training only for those who need basic skills education to perform Army jobs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: It is the DOD position that the commanders must retain the flexibility to determine course entry procedures, instructional methodology, scheduling to fit mission requirements, and other details of program micromanagement. The Army currently provides a standardized statement of work, curriculum, and reporting and evaluation criteria.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should centralize management so that all installations are operating the program in the same manner.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army identified the prerequisite competencies for 94 high-density MOS and analyzed the tasks required. Moveover, it developed a curriculum to remediate identified deficiencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should develop a program which raises soldiers' basic levels to meet job needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army made a determination that job-related, MOS-specific competencies are attainable.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should determine whether the desired skills are attainable, given expected time and resource constraints and the expected reading and math skills of future Army recruits.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The RCA Military Occupational Specialties (MOS) Baseline Skills Analysis identified the prerequisite skills for 94 high-density MOS and analyzed tasks required for job competency.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should clearly define the specific basic skills required to do each military job.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD is redesigning the Basic Skills Education Program into the Job Skills Education Program, which it reports is job related. The DOD action satisfies the intent of this recommendation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should, where feasible, offer basic skills education being given under current contracts only during off-duty hours.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  7. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Department of Defense (DOD) believes that deferral of contracts, in view of the Army's corrective actions, would be harmful to the overall program.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should defer renewals of all contracts for basic skills education at installations until the program is revised.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army Research Institute developed a monitoring system, a data collection and analysis system, and other evaluation criteria that clearly relate to program effectiveness. These systems were implemented in March 1987.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should establish a monitoring system to track, measure, and report program effectiveness.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

 

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