Military Personnel:

Perspectives of Surveyed Members in Retention Critical Specialities

NSIAD-99-197BR: Published: Aug 16, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the quality of life and retention in the military, focusing on: (1) military personnel's overall intentions to stay or leave the military; (2) military personnel's levels of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with the military; (3) factors that affect dissatisfaction and intent to leave the military; and (4) factors that affect satisfaction and intentions to stay in the military.

GAO noted that: (1) overall, more than half of the approximately 1,000 officers and enlisted military personnel GAO surveyed said they were dissatisfied and intended to leave the military after their obligation or term of enlistment was up; (2) dissatisfaction and intentions to leave the military were more apparent among enlisted personnel than officers; (3) on average, 52 percent of enlisted personnel surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the military, whereas 46 percent of officers were dissatisfied; (4) similarly, 62 percent of enlisted personnel surveyed said that they intend to leave the military after their obligation is up, whereas 40 percent of officers said they intend to leave; (5) the majority of factors concerning dissatisfaction were associated with work circumstances such as the lack of equipment and materials to successfully complete the demands of daily job requirements, the undermanning of units, the frequency of deployments, and the lack of personal time for family; (6) the nature of military compensation such as base military pay and retirement pay was also important, but these factors accounted for less than a quarter of all the factors military personnel were dissatisfied with; (7) in addition, the nature of military benefits such as medical care for military dependents and access to medical care in retirement accounted for 15 percent of all the factors military personnel were dissatisfied with; (8) the quality of life factors that are top sources of satisfaction for military personnel were traditional morale, welfare, and recreation activities and services, such as fitness and sports activities, as well as commissaries and exchanges, and chaplain services; (9) military personnel support programs, including youth and adolescent programs and military family support services, were also sources of satisfaction for the officers and enlisted military personnel GAO surveyed; (10) one factor associated with work circumstances that both officers and enlisted personnel were satisfied with was their immediate supervisors; (11) the survey findings generally suggest that actions to address the retention of military personnel in retention critical specialties or to develop effective and reliable assessments of military quality of life, should place special attention on aspects of military servicemembers' work circumstances; and (12) improving pay and benefits is an important concern for military personnel, but there seems to be a much greater need to address other quality of life issues in the retention of military personnel, including the nature of their work circumstances.

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