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The Department of Defense (DOD) uses employee benefits--that is, indirect compensation above and beyond a service member's basic pay--as a tool to recruit and retain personnel. DOD has instituted a number of benefits that reflect demographic changes in the active duty force since the draft ended and the military became an all-volunteer force in 1973. Many of these benefits address one of the most significant demographic changes--an increase in service members with family obligations. A second major demographic change in the active military has been a growing proportion of female service members. DOD has responded positively to most demographic changes by incorporating a number of family-friendly benefits; however, opportunities exist to improve current benefits in this area. In comparing the types of benefits offered by the military with those offered in the private sector, GAO did not identify significant gaps in the benefits available to military personnel. GAO did not make direct comparisons between individual military and private-sector benefits but did determine that all the core benefits offered by most private-sector firms--retirement pay, health care, life insurance, and paid time off--are offered by the military.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to develop measures for tracking and assessing the effectiveness of installation-level services offered through DOD's spousal employment assistance program.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with this recommendation. DOD stated that is was developing metrics to measure the effectiveness of the spousal employment assistance program, to include metrics measuring the usage of installation services. DOD reported that it had created a database structure for installation spouse employment metrics and was working to implement a searchable database for this information. The Army and the Navy had provided preliminary metrics for testing. DOD reported that the project was to be launched in October 2003.
Department of Defense 2. The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to assess the feasibility, costs, and benefits of offering extended time off to parents of newborn or adopted children as one way to increase retention of trained, experienced personnel.
Closed - Implemented
DOD partially concurred with this recommendation. As of August 2003, DOD was assessing the results of a contractor's study of the feasibility of implementing an extended leave program for active duty military personnel. According to DOD, the study included an assessment of extended leave for new parents, as well as other reasons for leaves of absence.

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