Military Personnel Cuts Have Not Impaired Most Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Activities

FPCD-79-54: Published: Jul 11, 1979. Publicly Released: Jul 11, 1979.

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Morale, welfare, and recreation (MWR) activities in the military services receive subsidies of more than $600 million in appropriated funds annually. Military resale activities such as exchanges, clubs, sports, and hobby shops take in more than $5 billion each year. In fiscal year (FY) 1978, and again in 1979, the Congress limited the number of military personnel assigned to these programs. The 1978 ceiling was set at 10,201 (an expected reduction of 1,750 military slots); the 1979 limit was 9,901. The ceilings were intended to reduce the appropriated funds supporting these activities and make more military personnel available for combat-related assignments. The services did not have to make any reductions to meet the 1978 ceiling of 10,201 because at the beginning of the year only 10,017 military personnel were assigned. However, the services did reassign 923 military personnel during the year.

On the basis of a survey of 519 military installations, GAO concluded that FY 1978 reductions had little impact on MWR activities. The military services could save $5,700 annually for each civilian appropriated fund employee substituted for a service member assigned to MWR activities. Substituting civilians for all military positions would save up to $57 million annually. While most of the 9,901 military positions can and should be filled by civilians, some factors could limit the extent of substitution, such as: congressional limits on federal civilian employment; labor agreements with other countries; rotation base requirements; and assignments in deployable combat and combat support units.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to: identify those MWR activity positions which must be reserved for military personnel; convert the remaining positions to appropriated fund civilian, or where possible, to nonappropriated fund civilian; and reduce military staffing in Navy and Marine Corps exchanges to the levels authorized in the other services.

    Agency Affected:


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