Military Recruiting:

Army National Guard Needs to Continue Monitoring, Collect Better Data, and Assess Incentives Programs

GAO-16-36: Published: Nov 17, 2015. Publicly Released: Nov 17, 2015.

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What GAO Found

The Army National Guard (ARNG) has taken steps to increase oversight of its recruiting process primarily conducted by recruiters dispersed at the state-level but has not established a permanent program to monitor state-level recruiting activities. In June 2014, the ARNG created a Recruiting Standards Branch that has started to conduct inspections of state offices. The Recruiting Standards branch completed inspections in 16 states from October 2014 through July 2015 and found that 2 states did not achieve full compliance in their inspections. However, this is not a permanent program, and ARNG officials stated that they are using positions to staff it intended for use in other areas. The ARNG is seeking approval for permanent staff by early 2017 to continue its oversight. Continued monitoring of state-level recruiting activities, such as through a permanent recruiting standards branch, will be important to ARNG's oversight functions.

The ARNG had mixed results in meeting its overall recruiting goals and nearly met its goals for initial military training; however, the ARNG does not track whether soldiers are completing their initial term of service or military obligation. The ARNG met its recruiting goals in 2 of the 5 years from fiscal years (FY) 2010 through 2014. While the ARNG nearly met its goals for training completion from FY 2011 through 2014, GAO found that the ARNG does not have complete, consistent, and valid data on why soldiers do not complete training and when they separate during training. Without consistent, complete, and valid data, decision makers do not have information to determine why a higher number of soldiers are not completing training. The ARNG also does not track whether soldiers are completing their initial term of service. GAO's analysis shows that about 40 percent of enlisted soldiers who joined the ARNG from FY 2001 through 2007 did not complete their initial term of service. Without tracking completion of initial term of service, ARNG officials cannot assess whether their programs are effective in meeting personnel requirements and do not have visibility to ensure the ARNG is maximizing its investment in its soldiers.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD), Department of the Army (Army), and ARNG have not fully conducted their oversight responsibilities of ARNG enlistment financial-incentives programs. OSD has not enforced a requirement that ARNG report incentives obligated through the ARNG incentives programs. Further, although Army and National Guard regulations require evaluations of the effectiveness of the ARNG financial incentives programs, the Army and ARNG have not evaluated and documented the effectiveness of the programs. Without evaluating and documenting the effectiveness of ARNG incentives programs, officials may not know whether changes are needed for effective use of incentives or they may determine that certain financial incentives are not needed. Moreover, the ARNG has not ensured that recruiters have an understanding of available financial incentives. Financial incentives are a tool available to recruiters and agency policy states that incentives are available to assist in meeting and sustaining readiness requirements and to assist in filling critical shortages. ARNG has not provided recruiters with training on using financial incentives. With additional training, recruiters could better understand when and how to offer financial incentives to fill critical positions.

Why GAO Did This Study

Recruiters are often referred to as the “face” of the ARNG. In the past, there have been allegations of recruiter misconduct and misuse of financial incentives, making it important for recruiters to ensure procedures are followed when working with applicants and that incentives to join the ARNG are awarded properly and effectively.

House Report 113-446 included a provision for GAO to review the ARNG's recruiting practices. This report evaluates the extent to which (1) ARNG has provided oversight of its recruiting process; (2) ARNG met its goals for recruiting, completion of initial military training, and initial term of service; and (3) OSD, Department of the Army, and ARNG have conducted oversight of ARNG's enlistment financial incentives programs. For this work, GAO reviewed DOD and ARNG recruiting policy and procedures and interviewed cognizant officials. GAO analyzed data on recruiting from FY2010 through FY2014, training from FY2011 through FY2014, and initial term of service for FY2015. GAO visited four states representing a range of size and locations.

What GAO Recommends

GAO recommends, among other things, that ARNG take actions to collect consistent, complete, and valid data on soldiers who do not complete training and initial term of service, and evaluate and document its incentives programs. DOD concurred with GAO's recommendations but stated that it did not concur with the report due to GAO's depiction of waivers. GAO disagrees with DOD's characterization as discussed in the report.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of May 2019 the ARNG has created a specific funding line for the Recruiting Standards Branch; increased staffing; provides training to the states and territories; and conducts state and territory visits focused on preventing, detecting, and mitigating recruiter irregularities. The ARNG has continued its use of the Recruiting Standards Branch, including 19 state and territory visits planned for fiscal year 2019.

    Recommendation: To aid ARNG officials in conducting their oversight of the states and territories, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Director, ARNG, to establish a permanent program for monitoring state-level recruiting activities either by extending the Recruiting Standards Branch or establishing some other similar program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of May 2018 the ARNG began tracking reasons why soldiers do not complete initial military training and when soldiers separate from the ARNG during the training process.

    Recommendation: To aid ARNG officials in understanding the effectiveness of efforts to meet force requirements, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Director, ARNG, to take steps to help ensure that the ARNG collects consistent, complete, and valid data on the specific reasons why soldiers do not complete initial military training and when these soldiers separate from the ARNG during the training process. Such steps could include modifying the Standard Installation/Division Personnel System (SIDPERS) to capture this information or if unable to modify SIDPERS, taking actions to ensure that information collected in the Vulcan Recruit Sustainment Program database is valid.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of May 2019 the ARNG continually analyzes the number of soldiers who complete their initial term of service and has developed a report where information can be reviewed on a quarterly and annual basis. In addition, the report can be used to focus on year group or by state, among others.

    Recommendation: To aid ARNG officials in understanding the effectiveness of efforts to meet force requirements, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Director, ARNG, to regularly track whether ARNG soldiers who join in a given fiscal year complete their initial term of service.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of May 2019, the ARNG has estimated the total cost of recruiting and initial training for a soldier who joins the ARNG and intends to revise it periodically.

    Recommendation: To aid ARNG officials in understanding the effectiveness of efforts to meet force requirements, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Director, ARNG, to periodically estimate, such as on an annual basis or other time period as appropriate, the total cost of recruiting and initial training for a soldier who joins the ARNG.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of May 2019 the ARNG incorporated incentive policy, use, and processes into its lesson plans and training schedules.

    Recommendation: To help ARNG officials in using financial incentives to fill critical positions as required by Army and National Guard regulation, the Secretary of the Army should direct the Director, ARNG, to provide recruiters with training to better enable the use of available financial incentives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of May 2019 the ARNG has implemented a process, to review and update its critical skills list on a quarterly basis to provide the 54 States, Territories and the District of Columbia flexibility in achieving recruiting, retention, and attrition management missions. The top 10 military occupational specialties identified on its quarterly critical skills list are identified as military occupational specialties with incentives, among others.

    Recommendation: To help determine whether ARNG officials are effectively using financial incentives, the Secretary of the Army should , in conjunction with the Director, ARNG, exercise their oversight responsibilities by evaluating and documenting the effectiveness of ARNG's incentives program in meeting its goals. The evaluation should also determine whether incentives are being effectively awarded in military occupational specialties that have been under or over authorized levels, and whether changes are needed to effectively use existing incentives.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD concurred with our recommendation. As of February 2020, the Office of the Secretary of Defense began to enforce its requirement for the National Guard and Reserve Component to submit information on the amounts incentives obligated and has incorporated the required information in the recruiting resources reports.

    Recommendation: Given that the reporting of information related to the amounts of incentives obligated has been a requirement but not carried out in recent years, the Office of the Secretary of Defense should, in order to ensure continued reporting in the future, enforce its requirement for the National Guard and Reserve Component to submit information on the amounts of incentives obligated and incorporate the required information in the recruiting resources reports.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of the Secretary of Defense

 

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