Survey of Private-Sector Earnings of Navy Enlisted Personnel Who Left the Service in Mid-Career

NSIAD-85-25: Published: Nov 20, 1984. Publicly Released: Nov 20, 1984.

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GAO reported the results of a survey which it conducted to obtain data on whether experienced career personnel leaving the Navy earned more or less in their first private-sector job than they would have by reenlistment. The timeframe covered by the survey, fiscal year (FY) 1980 through the first quarter of 1982, was a period during which the services were trying to recover from serious recruitment and retention problems which were attributed to the failure of military pay to remain competitive with the private sector.

For FY 1980 the survey showed that, on the average, people who left the Navy earned considerably more in their first private-sector jobs than they would have by reenlisting. Survey respondents also indicated that job skills learned in the Navy were valuable in obtaining private-sector work and that those who used their Navy-learned skills generally earned more than those who did not. Although reported starting pay in the private sector did not significantly increase for those who left the Navy during FY 1981, respondents reported that they earned about the same as they would have by reenlisting. This leveling of earnings can be attributed to Navy catch-up pay raises and other reenlistment incentives, and FY 1981 marked the beginning of a significant upturn in reenlistment rates. Since fewer people were leaving the Navy by 1982, the universe of people surveyed in the first quarter of 1982 was considerably smaller and therefore the private-sector earnings data collected were less conclusive. The data showed that, on an annual basis, people would have earned more had they remained in the Navy. However, because people work longer hours in the Navy than in their private-sector jobs, it was reported that private-sector pay still exceeded what people would have earned per hour by reenlistment in the Navy.

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