Military Personnel:

Evaluation Methods Linked to Anticipated Outcomes Needed to Inform Decisions on Army Recruitment Incentives

GAO-08-1037R: Published: Sep 18, 2008. Publicly Released: Sep 18, 2008.

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Since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the United States has launched several military operations that have dramatically increased the operations tempo of the military services and required the large-scale mobilization of reservists. These factors have particularly affected the active Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard, which have shouldered the bulk of the personnel burden associated with ongoing operations in Iraq. A 2007 Congressional Research Service report notes that many observers have expressed concern that these factors might lead to lower recruiting and retention rates, thereby jeopardizing the vitality of today's all-volunteer military. Additionally, in 2004 the Army began its modular force transformation to restructure itself from a division-based force to a more agile and responsive modular brigade-based force--an undertaking it considers to be the most extensive reorganization of its force since World War II. Both ongoing military operations and transformation have prompted the Army to increase its recruitment efforts. To encourage military service, Congress, through Section 681 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, temporarily authorized the Army to provide not more than four new recruitment incentives and directed the Secretary of the Army to submit to Congress a plan for each recruitment incentive it develops under the authority provided. Section 681 states that each plan should include (1) a description of the incentive, including its purpose and the potential recruits to be addressed by the incentive; (2) a description of the provisions of the U.S. Code relevant to the military that would need to be waived in order for the Army to provide the incentive and an explanation of why these provisions would need to be waived; (3) a statement of the anticipated outcomes as a result of providing the incentive; and (4) the method to be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the incentive. The Army is also required to submit an annual report to Congress on each of the recruitment incentives developed under this authority; this report is to include a description of the incentives and an assessment of their impact on recruitment during the previous fiscal year. The Army began providing recruitment incentives under this authority in June 2006 and is currently using it to pilot three recruitment incentives. Under Section 681, the Army's authority to provide these new recruitment incentives expires on December 31, 2009. The Army may modify, expand, or take steps to make permanent some or all of these recruitment incentives, based on the data it collects during this pilot phase. For this report, we (1) identified and described the recruitment incentives the Army has developed under Section 681 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 and (2) assessed the extent to which the plans for each incentive included anticipated outcomes and a methodology for evaluating these outcomes.

The Secretary of the Army has notified Congress--as the law requires--of the three recruitment incentives that the Army has developed under Section 681 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006. As further required by Section 681, the Army has developed a plan for each of these incentives. The Recruiter Incentive Pay Pilot Program, which the Army began offering in June 2006, provides monthly, quarterly, and annual bonus pay to Army, Army Reserve, and Army National Guard recruiters-- of both officers and enlisted soldiers--who exceed their recruitment goals. The Army Advantage Fund Pilot Program, which the Army began offering in February 2008, provides payment to enlisted active Army and Army Reserve recruits with no prior service, following their completion of service, to be used for home ownership or small business development. The Officer Accession Pilot Program, which the Army began offering in August 2008, offers three options--two that target Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets and one that targets certain qualified medical professionals and chaplains between the ages of 43 and 60. One of the ROTC options provides a monetary bonus to cadets who attend the Leader Training Course, a 4-week program that ROTC students take during the summer between their sophomore and junior years of college. The second ROTC option provides a monthly stipend to cadets who participate satisfactorily in approved language immersion programs, programs of study abroad, or academic courses involving instruction in a foreign language of strategic importance to DOD. Both of these options require cadets to sign a contract to serve as commissioned officers after they graduate. The third option reduces the mandatory length of the military service obligation from 8 years to 2 years for certain qualified medical professionals and chaplains. Army officials with whom we spoke stated that the Army does not currently expect to develop a fourth recruitment incentive. However, the Army noted in technical comments on our draft report that it reserves the option to develop one more recruitment incentive pursuant to Section 681. Two of the Army's three recruitment incentive plans do not include anticipated outcomes and none describes a methodology to be used to evaluate its effectiveness. Section 681 requires that each plan the Secretary of the Army submits to Congress include, among other things, (1) a statement of the outcomes the Army anticipates will result from the incentive offered, and (2) a description of the method to be used to evaluate the incentive's effectiveness. Although the Army did not include this information in the plans it sent to Congress for the first two incentives, the Army did include information about anticipated outcomes in accompanying notification letters. In addition, the Army assigned responsibility for developing evaluation methodologies and assessing the Recruiter Incentive Pay Pilot Program to the U.S. Army's Accession Command's Center for Accession Research and for the Army Advantage Fund Pilot Program to RAND. For the Officer Accession Pilot Program, the Army did include anticipated outcomes in the plan, and it assigned the evaluation responsibilities to the U.S. Army Accessions Command, the Army Surgeon General, and the Army Chief of Chaplains. However, the information on anticipated outcomes is limited for all three incentives in that it does not include the assumptions behind the numbers, and, therefore, the link between the desired outcomes and the methodology to be used to assess progress is not clear.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve management of the incentives and ensure that the required annual assessments will be of use to Army decision makers, for each recruitment incentive developed pursuant to Section 681, the Secretary of the Army should issue guidance to clearly specify anticipated outcomes for each incentive, describe the assumptions behind these anticipated outcomes, identify the evaluation method to be used to assess progress toward these outcomes, and link anticipated outcomes to the stated evaluation method.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on our draft report, DOD concurred with this recommendation, and stated that the Secretary of the Army would ensure that for each of the recruitment incentives developed pursuant to Section 681 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2006, that anticipated outcomes, underlying assumptions, evaluation methods, and linkage between the anticipated outcome and evaluation method are clearly articulated in the annual report to Congress on each recruitment incentive. As of July 20, 2012, the Army had not issued guidance on this issue.

    Recommendation: To improve management of the incentives and ensure that the required annual assessments will be of use to Army decision makers, for each recruitment incentive developed pursuant to Section 681, the Secretary of the Army should ensure that this guidance is specifically addressed in the required annual assessments for each recruitment incentive.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on our draft report, DOD concurred with this recommendation, and stated that the Secretary of the Army would ensure that for each of the recruitment incentives developed pursuant to Section 681 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2006, that anticipated outcomes, underlying assumptions, evaluation methods, and linkage between the anticipated outcome and evaluation method are specifically addressed in the annual report to Congress on each recruitment incentive and serve as the basis for continuing, modifying, or discontinuing any or all of the recruitment incentives. On Dec. 14, 2010, the Army's Director of Military Personnel Management, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, G1, submitted the reports required by Section 681 for 2008 and 2009 for the Army Advantage Fund Pilot Program, the Recruiter Incentive Pay Pilot Program, and the Officer Accession Pilot Program. He stated that these reports included the outcomes, assumptions, evaluation methods, and linkage between the anticipated outcome and evaluation method as stated in GAO's recommendations. These reports do in fact include the required elements.

    Recommendation: Should the Army decide--based on the results of the annual assessments of each incentive--to seek to make any of these incentives permanent, the Secretary of the Army, should, for any proposals the Army may wish to develop, include in its business case clearly specified anticipated outcomes for each incentive, a description of the assumptions behind these anticipated outcomes, an identification of the evaluation method to be used to assess progress toward these outcomes, and an explanation that links anticipated outcomes to the stated evaluation method.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on our draft report, DOD concurred with this recommendation, and stated that should the Secretary of the Army seek to make any of the recruitment incentives permanent, the Army will develop a business case that includes clearly specified anticipated outcomes, a description of the assumptions being the anticipated outcomes, an identification of the evaluation method to be used to assess progress toward these outcomes, and an explanation that links anticipated outcomes to the stated evaluation method. As of July 20, 2012, the Army had decided not to make any of these recruitment incentive programs permanent, and this recommendation did not apply.

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