Military Downsizing:

Balancing Accessions and Losses Is Key to Shaping the Future Force

NSIAD-93-241: Published: Sep 30, 1993. Publicly Released: Oct 15, 1993.

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Mark E. Gebicke
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Defense's (DOD) compliance with congressional guidance and authorizations in military downsizing, focusing on: (1) DOD progress towards meeting reduction targets; (2) the effects of downsizing on new recruiting or accessions; (3) voluntary and involuntary reduction actions to meet downsizing objectives; (4) the accomplishment of downsizing across various groups of officers and enlisted personnel by years of service and its effect on force profiles; and (5) issues important to future reduction decisions.

GAO found that: (1) DOD has accomplished the majority of its planned active duty force reductions, and its fiscal year (FY) 1993 personnel level will be about 21 percent below its FY 1987 personnel level; (2) as a result of the DOD bottom-up review, further reductions below planned FY 1995 levels are probable; (3) DOD and the services have reduced planned personnel accession levels by 34 percent, but they are continuing to recruit large numbers of personnel in order to sustain a balanced force across various pay grades and skill areas and preserve future career opportunities and military capabilities; (4) personnel turnover rates are higher than force reduction rates due to uncertainties, career anxiety, and force-shaping decisions; (5) DOD has given priority to voluntary separations through early release, retirement, and financial incentives, but the pool of likely candidates for voluntary separation is declining; (6) involuntary reduction actions involve higher retention standards, mandatory retirement of selected personnel, and reduction-in-force for nonretirement-eligible personnel; (7) the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel and average pay grades have increased slightly during downsizing; and (8) issues that could impact future force reduction decisions include future force profiles, how quickly the force can be reduced, what accession levels should be, and what cost trade-offs are most desirable between a younger or a more experienced force.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress enacted this provision in section 561 of the FY 1994 National Defense Authorization Act.

    Matter: Given that DOD downsizing is apt to continue for several more years, Congress, to the extent it desires a continuing emphasis on minimizing involuntary separations, may wish to consider extending the use of special financial separation incentive programs beyond the current deadline of fiscal year 1995.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress enacted this provision in secion 502 of the FY 1994 National Defense Authorization Act.

    Matter: Congress may wish to consider amending the legislation to include all who have attained 6 years of service within the time frame for which the incentives are authorized as a means of broadening the pool of persons eligible for the incentives and minimize the potential for greater involuntary separations in the future.


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