Military Recruiting:

DOD Could Improve Its Recruiter Selection and Incentive Systems

NSIAD-98-58: Published: Jan 30, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the military services' recruiting processes, focusing on the recruiter incentive systems that the military services use to optimize the performance of military recruiters and ensure that only fully qualified applicants are enlisted.

GAO noted that: (1) the Department of Defense (DOD) could enhance the success of its recruiters if the services strengthened key aspects of their systems for selecting and training recruiters; (2) only the Air Force requires personnel experienced in recruiting to interview candidates for recruiting positions and uses selection tests to screen interviewees for recruiting duty; (3) while recruiters from each service receive practical training to improve their ability to recruit and enlist personnel, Marine Corps and Navy training also emphasize the importance of retaining recruits once enlisted and require recruiters to focus on retention as well as recruiting; (4) the services have taken steps to improve their delayed entry programs, such as increasing the amount of contact between recruiters and recruits; (5) although all the services give recruits in the delayed entry programs access to their physical fitness facilities and encourage the recruits to become or stay physically fit, only the Marine Corps conducts regular physical training for recruits who are waiting to go to basic training; (6) although recruits who are physically fit are more likely to complete basic training, only the Marine Corps requires all recruits to take a physical fitness test before reporting to basic training; (7) achieving monthly goals has been the key measure of recruiter performance; (8) only the Marine Corps and the Navy consider retention in measuring and rewarding recruiter performance; (9) specifically, they consider the number of recruits completing basic training when evaluating the success of recruiters; the Army and the Air Force consider primarily the number of recruits enlisted or the number reporting to the basic training; (10) DOD's 1996 survey of service recruiters showed that the number of hours that recruiters work reached its highest point since 1989; (11) despite this effort, less than one-half of the recruiters achieved their goals in 9 or more months of a 12-month period; (12) the recruiters GAO interviewed were concerned about the difficulties they face in meeting monthly goals and the long hours they must devote to their jobs; and (13) establishing quarterly floating goals could ease the burden on recruiters and still provide an incentive to meet recruitment goals.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: OSD has stated that DOD recognizes that pressures placed on recruiters, particularly in times when the recruiting environment is especially challenging, can be daunting, and that any idea that appears to reduce monthly stress would be a welcome change. However, the importance of manning the force with a steady flow of new recruits is of paramount importance. Each service has stated that it needs to continue the current monthly recruiter mission to ensure a level of control that is sufficiently flexible to meet the ever-changing accessions requirements. Therefore, DOD will take no further action on this recommendation.

    Recommendation: To enhance recruiters' working conditions and the services' ability to attract qualified candidates for recruiting duty, the Secretary of Defense should encourage the use of quarterly floating goals as an alternative to the services' current systems of monthly goals.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Three services have directly tied the measurement of success for recruiters to their recruits' successful completion of basic training. In the Navy and the Army, recruiters are awarded points when their recruits graduate from basic training. In the Marine Corps, recruiters must replace each recruit who does not graduate. In the Air Force, the recruiter's goal system is not directly tied to recruits' successful completion of basic training, but attrition rates are considered for award purposes.

    Recommendation: To enhance recruiter success and help recruiters focus on DOD's strategic retention goal, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the services to link recruiter awards more closely to recruits' successful completion of basic training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Only the Marine Corps regularly tests its new recruits in physical fitness before sending them to basic training. The Navy and the Army have just begun to encourage recruits to take a voluntary physical fitness test before attending basic training as part of a larger incentive program to gain an advanced paygrade. The Air Force does not intend to administer such a physical fitness test, as it does not see fitness as a major problem.

    Recommendation: To maintain recruit quality and increase a recruit's chances of graduating from basic training, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to implement the Marine Corps' practice of administering a physical fitness test to recruits before they report to basic training.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Marine Corps requires its recruiters and drill instructors to continually interact, both formally and informally. Navy recruiters and drill instructors meet less frequently, requiring recruiters to attend Recruiter Refresher Training at its basic training camp. Interaction between Air Force recruiters and drill instructors is similarly infrequent, generally limited to one-time recruiter visits to basic training to talk with trainees. Finally, the Army believes that its recruiting and training sites are too dispersed to require formal and regular interaction between drill instructors and recruiters.

    Recommendation: For the services to meet DOD's strategic goal of recruiting and retaining well-qualified military personnel, optimize recruiting command efficiency by identifying personnel who are likely to succeed as recruiters, and increase recruits' chances of graduating from basic training, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the services to instruct officials at the service recruiting schools to emphasize the retention portion of DOD's long-term strategic goal by having drill instructors meet with students at the schools and having the recruiters in training meet with separating recruits and those being held back due to poor physical conditioning. These practices could establish an ongoing dialogue between recruiters and drill instructors and enhance understanding of problems that lead to early attrition.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Three services-the Navy, the Army, and the Air Force-are currently testing the Emotional Quotient Inventory for use in selecting recruiters. The Marine Corps has no plans to use such an instrument for selecting recruiters. Instead, it plans to continue to rely on commanders' recommendations and personal interviews to select recruiters.

    Recommendation: For the services to meet DOD's strategic goal of recruiting and retaining well-qualified military personnel, optimize recruiting command efficiency by identifying personnel who are likely to succeed as recruiters, and increase recruits' chances of graduating from basic training, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the services to jointly explore the feasibility of developing or procuring assessment tests that can aid in the selection of recruiters.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: All four services now use recruiters to select recruiters. For example, the Navy has formed five-member recruiter selection teams comprising career recruiters who visit units to screen personnel for recruiting duty. The Marine Corps and the Air Force use experienced recruiters to help select recruiters. The Army has formed a four-member recruit-the-recruiter team that visits installations to select potential recruiters.

    Recommendation: For the services to meet DOD's strategic goal of recruiting and retaining well-qualified military personnel, optimize recruiting command efficiency by identifying personnel who are likely to succeed as recruiters, and increase recruits' chances of graduating from basic training, the Secretary of Defense should instruct the services to use experienced field recruiters to personally interview all prospective recruiters and evaluate their potential to effectively communicate with applicants, parents, teachers, and others in the civilian community.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: All four services have taken actions to encourage new recruits to undergo physical fitness training while awaiting basic training. For example, the Navy and the Army now offer recruits an advanced paygrade if they complete a list of tasks, including physical training, before they are sent to basic training. All four services now allow recruits access to military fitness facilities while they are in the Delayed Entry Program.

    Recommendation: To maintain recruit quality and increase a recruit's chances of graduating from basic training, the Secretary of Defense should encourage the services to incorporate more structured physical fitness training into their delayed entry program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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