Military Personnel:

First-Term Recruiting and Attrition Continue to Require Focused Attention

T-NSIAD-00-102: Published: Feb 24, 2000. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 2000.

Additional Materials:


Norman J. Rabkin
(202) 512-3000


Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed ways that the Department of Defense (DOD) and the services are attempting to address their recent enlistment shortfalls and to reduce the attrition rate of their first-term enlisted personnel.

GAO noted that: (1) over the past 2 years, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force have been experiencing problems in recruiting qualified enlisted personnel; (2) in response, these three services have all refocused their attention on this area and added resources to address perceived problems; (3) for example, most have increased the number of recruiters and their advertising budgets, as well as offering larger enlistment bonuses and more money for college; (4) all these tools have been shown by past research to help the services attract new recruits; (5) the services have also sought innovative ways of expanding their shrinking recruiting market without reducing the quality of recruits; (6) also, all the services hope to more vigorously target students at community colleges; (7) the Marine Corps has been successful in meeting recruiting goals, therefore, it does not plan to initiate any major changes to its recruiting program; (8) the services' problems with recruiting first-term enlistees are exacerbated by the fact that they have historically lost about one-third of their enlistees before they have completed their initial terms of service; (9) therefore, the services have also focused their attention on how to retain more personnel; (10) while many of their initiatives appear promising, the latest 4-year attrition data available, for those who entered the services in fiscal year (FY) 1994 and left by the end of FY 1998, indicate that this rate continued to rise and is at an all-time DOD high of 36.9 percent; (11) as GAO pointed out in past reports, the services will not be able to develop appropriate steps to reduce attrition until they have more precise data on why these persons are leaving the military early; (12) to obtain this type of information, DOD and the services are making progress collecting accurate data on why people leave the service early, especially for medical reasons; and (13) however, though the services have taken many initiatives to target enlistees whom they wish to rehabilitate, such as persons who fail the physical training test or appear to be struggling with academic or language problems in basic training, they have not yet extended their more extensive data collection effort toward these other types of separations in order to identify the root causes of the problems.

Nov 20, 2020

Nov 19, 2020

Nov 18, 2020

Nov 5, 2020

Oct 29, 2020

Oct 21, 2020

Looking for more? Browse all our products here