Military Attrition:

Better Screening of Enlisted Personnel Could Save Millions of Dollars

T-NSIAD-97-120: Published: Mar 13, 1997. Publicly Released: Mar 13, 1997.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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GAO discussed its report on military enlisted attrition, focusing on: (1) the extent of the attrition problem; (2) the reasons why enlistees are separated; (3) the adequacy of the data the Department of Defense (DOD) has available for setting realistic attrition reduction goals; (4) the savings the services could accrue by achieving their goals for reducing 6-month attrition; and (5) changes in policy since GAO issued its report in January 1997.

GAO noted that: (1) more than 14 percent of new recruits leave the services during the first 6 months, and more than 30 percent leave before the end of their first term; (2) because of this attrition, the services lose a substantial investment in training, time, equipment, and related expenses and must increase accessions to replace these losses; (3) the main reasons for the high attrition rate during the first 6 months are that: (a) the services' screening of applicants for disqualifying medical conditions or preservice drug use is inadequate; and (b) recruits fail to perform adequately because they are in poor physical condition for basic training or lack motivation; (4) although the services are greatly concerned about attrition, their goals for reducing attrition are based on inconsistent, incomplete data and are unrealistic; and (5) if the services were to actually reach their goals, however, they would realize immediate short-term annual savings ranging from $5 million to $39 million.

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