Army Could Do More To Reduce Imbalances in Military Occupational Specialties

NSIAD-84-20: Published: Feb 17, 1984. Publicly Released: Feb 17, 1984.

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Kenneth J. Coffey
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GAO examined Army efforts to rectify skill imbalances in light of the highly favorable recruitment and retention environment of the past 2 years. The review focused on military occupational specialties (MOS) which have either significantly more or fewer soldiers than the Army requires in these occupations.

GAO found that staffing imbalances have existed since 1973. At the end of the second quarter of fiscal year 1983, about 66 percent of the Army's MOS were imbalanced and imbalances have also occurred for various pay grades and years-of-service groups within specific MOS. In 1982, the Army began to place greater emphasis on correcting the grade distribution imbalances of noncommissioned officers within career management fields to improve skill matches, focus on critical skills, eliminate poor performers, and support modernization. The Army attempted to resolve the imbalances through limiting entry of prior service reenlistees to specific understrength MOS, reducing promotion opportunity in overstrength MOS, reclassification, and changing retention criteria. Despite these efforts, the Army has made relatively little progress toward reducing skill imbalances; however, it has reduced the imbalances of noncommissioned officers within career management fields. GAO found that Army reenlistment practice, which allows first-term soldiers to reenlist in their present MOS, impedes progress toward reducing skill imbalances. The Air Force's career reservation system, which requires all eligible first-term reenlistees to make a job reservation, demonstrates how a program of controlling first-term reenlistment can be designed. In the Air Force, reservations are limited by occupational need and Air Force personnel who are unable to obtain a reservation within their occupation must retrain for a shortage occupation or leave the service.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The Army believes that its policy is accomplishing the objective of balancing the force without the negative impact it believes would be inherent in involuntary retraining or forced separation programs. GAO has seen no data to support the Army's contention that it is improving force alignment or that enforcing the policy option would have an adverse effect on retention.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should implement, on a test basis, the Army's stated policy for controlling first-term reenlistments in overstrength MOS and retrain soldiers into understrength MOS.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army


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