Military Training:

Its Effectiveness for Technical Specialties Is Unknown

PEMD-91-4: Published: Oct 16, 1990. Publicly Released: Oct 16, 1990.

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GAO reviewed the information on which the military services based their evaluations of the effectiveness of their technical training programs, recruit selection, and position classification decisions.

GAO found that: (1) mean Armed Forces Qualifications Test (AFQT) scores rose by approximately eight points between 1981 and 1989 for both men and women recruits; (2) in 1980, white recruits scored approximately 21 points higher than minority recruits, but by 1989 the difference decreased to 15 points; (3) mean AFQT scores in all services were significantly higher in 1989 than in 1981; (4) mean scores on electronics tests for the three services changed very little from 1985 to 1988, but Army and Navy scores declined significantly in 1989, while Air Force scores remained higher; (5) a smaller percentage of recruits qualified for the most demanding technical specialities than at any time since 1981; (6) women and minorities were severely underrepresented among those who qualified, since they generally scored lower than white men; (7) course grades for five Army specialities were not equally reliable indicators of performance during training; (8) there were inconsistencies in Army scoring procedures between different classes and even within the same class; (9) among Navy recruits, men entered training with lower AFQT scores and significantly higher electronics composite test scores than those for women; (10) final grades for male Navy recruits were slightly, but significantly, lower than those for their female classmates; (11) Air Force trainees' scores and course grades were higher than those of the other services; (12) each service had evaluation mechanisms in place, but only the Army systematically collected data on individuals' field performance; and (13) the lack of reliable field performance data for Navy and Air Force personnel made realistic assessment of training effectiveness impossible.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) has initiated research into the validity of current predictors of occupational success for women and minorities.

    Recommendation: The Office of Force Management and Personnel should direct the personnel research it coordinates among the individual services to identify more sensitive predictors of classroom for women and minority students from the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery data it already possesses.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of Force Management and Personnel

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Army has reviewed questionable grading procedures and initiated corrective action.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Army should direct the Training and Doctrine Command to review the classroom grading procedures identified within the report as deficient, for their accuracy, appropriateness, and reliability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Army

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Navy has developed an enhanced training feedback system.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Navy should: (1) establish a firm deadline for developing a training evaluation program; and (2) direct that the adequacy of current resources allocated to this effort be reexamined.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Navy

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OSD has reviewed alternative and improved measures of field performance.

    Recommendation: The Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Management and Personnel should review alternative measures of field performance already developed by the services under the Job Performance Measurement project for their potential applicability to training and on-the-job performance evaluation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Office of Force Management and Personnel


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