The Army Needs To Reevaluate Its Extended Basic Training Program

FPCD-82-11: Published: Mar 3, 1982. Publicly Released: Mar 3, 1982.

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In October 1981, the Army extended basic training from 7 to 8 weeks for all recruits entering the service to improve recruit performance in basic soldiering tasks. GAO assessed: (1) how the Army developed the program; (2) what the Army has done to assure decisionmakers that program goals could be accomplished in the most effective manner; and (3) whether the Army had the qualified trainers necessary to implement the program fully, beginning October 1, 1981.

The Army has not adequately identified, isolated, or analyzed the cause of performance problems. Therefore, the Army cannot be certain whether additional training time is necessary or whether restructuring the existing program could improve training. To justify the new program, the Army used survey information from operational and training units. However, the survey did not define the causes of training problems and was hampered by technical deficiencies, such as shortcomings in sampling strategy. The Army has yet to demonstrate that the new program is effective. Without such effort, GAO believes that the Army has little assurance about the amount of basic training necessary to field a well-trained force. Recent Army efforts to begin collecting data on the benefits of the program raise doubts more concern about program validation, because controlled testing procedures are not being used and the results may not be very useful in evaluating program effectiveness. Historically, the Army has operated its basic training program with less than the authorized number of trainers and has recently relied on using less experienced trainers who may be inadequately trained in the tasks they are assigned to teach. Neither the Army nor GAO knows how well the extended basic training program is providing soldiers with the skills needed to perform effectively. Although the Army is taking actions to determine program effectiveness and to improve the training of instructors, GAO believes that these efforts will not answer critical questions.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has adopted policies to authorize sufficient numbers of drill sergeants for 100 percent of the required positions. The Army continues to monitor the conduct of all drill sergeant and trainer courses to ensure that standards are met. In addition, the Army conducted an analysis of basic training needs to determine the length of time needed for basic training.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should: (1) evaluate the basic training program to determine the most effective and efficient length of training; and (2) resolve trainer quantity and quality problems. Comprehensive plans for accomplishing these actions should include: (1) how to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new program and measure improvements; (2) how to demonstrate the skills and abilities needed for trainers to meet the basic training requirement; (3) specific actions and timetables for providing the qualified trainers; (4) identifying organizational responsibility for program evaluation components; (5) specific resources, personnel, and funds required to accomplish this analysis; and (6) milestones for completing various steps. Priorities should be established to ensure continued authorization and assignment of the quantity and quality of trainers needed for basic training. Initial results of these actions should be presented to Congress in its fiscal year 1984 budget.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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