Military Personnel:

Observations on the Department of Defense's Career Intermission Pilot Program

GAO-17-623R: Published: May 31, 2017. Publicly Released: May 31, 2017.

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Brenda S. Farrell
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What GAO Found

For calendar years 2009 through 2016, GAO found:

  • Analysis of data provided by the military services shows that the estimated costs of the Career Intermission Pilot Program (CIPP), which allows interested servicemembers to take a career intermission of up to 3 years to meet personal or professional needs, were approximately $4.8 million. Of these estimated costs, about $2.8 million was related to medical expenses, about $1.1 million was related to permanent change of station costs, and about $800,000 was related to salary payments.
  • One hundred ninety-two servicemembers from across the military services began their career intermissions during this time period. Of the 192 servicemembers, 60 percent were enlisted, 40 percent were officers; and 44 percent were male, 56 percent were female.
  • Occupations of CIPP participants varied widely across the military services. 
  • Participants in CIPP submitted reasons for their participation. GAO grouped these reasons into three categories – education, family, and other. Education was the most frequently submitted reason.
  • Seventy-eight servicemembers have returned from career intermission. A Marine Corps official who manages the Marine Corps CIPP told us there was a single instance of a servicemember not returning to the military service to which he was assigned prior to going on a career intermission. That servicemember was in the Marine Corps and attended seminary school while on career intermission. Because the Marine Corps does not have chaplains, the servicemember transferred to the Navy to continue military service as a chaplain. 
  • The Navy had the largest number of servicemembers, 66, return from career intermission. A Navy official identified 38 of the 66 as being eligible for promotion after returning to active duty, and told us that of the 38 servicemembers, 16 have been promoted. Navy officials stated that several factors could affect a promotion decision and it would not be possible to single out CIPP participation as a reason for a servicemember's either being or not being promoted.
  • Army, Air Force, and Marine Corps officials said it is too early in their implementation of the program to assess career progression, as thus far no servicemembers who have returned from career intermissions have been eligible for promotion.

Why GAO Did This Study

Congress authorized CIPP in 2009, with the intent of enhancing retention and providing greater flexibility in the career path of servicemembers. CIPP allows interested servicemembers to take career intermissions of up to 3 years in order to meet personal or professional needs--such as pursuing higher education, or caring for ailing parents or young children--and then return to active duty with no adverse career effects. 

Senate Report 114-255 to accompany the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 included a provision for GAO to provide a report to the Senate and House Armed Services Committees on the Department of Defense’s (DOD) CIPP. This report describes (1) the costs of CIPP since it began in 2009; (2) the number of servicemembers who participated in CIPP, their occupations, and their reasons for participating; (3) the number of servicemembers who did not return from their career intermissions, and reasons why they did not return; and (4) for those servicemembers who returned from their career intermissions, how they progressed in their careers. GAO analyzed data for each military service on costs and participation and interviewed DOD officials. 

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at 202.512.3604 or

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