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Military Education: DOD Needs to Enhance Performance Goals and Measures to Improve Oversight of Military Academies

GAO-03-1000 Published: Sep 10, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2003.
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Graduates of the service academies operated by the Army, Navy, and Air Force currently make up approximately 18 percent of the officer corps for the nation's armed services. The academies represent the military's most expensive source of new officers. The Department of Defense (DOD) pays the full cost of a student's 4-year education at the academies; and the related cost has increased over the past 4 years. Admission to the academies is highly competitive. The academies use a "whole person" method to make admission decisions. Recent studies by the Air Force raised questions about possible adverse effects of whole person admissions policies on student quality. GAO was asked to review all three service academies and specifically address the extent to which (1) DOD oversees the service academies, (2) applicants are granted waivers of academic standards, and (3) various groups of students differ in admissions scores and academy performance.


Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To improve DOD oversight of the operations and performance of the service academies, the Secretary of Defense should direct the OUSD/P&R, in concert with the services, to further enhance performance goals and measures whereby the information required in annual assessment reports can be better evaluated. These performance goals should be developed for each academy and, where appropriate, in common for all academies. The specific goals should coincide with performance elements agreed upon by the services and OUSD/P&R and might include such things as graduation rates, demographic composition of student classes, assessments of officer performance after graduation, and other performance information already collected by the academies, including performance characteristics of various groups of students.
Closed – Not Implemented
In February 2012, GAO reported that DOD had only partially implemented GAO's 2003 recommendation regarding the service academies. Specifically, while conducting a follow-up review of DOD's oversight of the academies and preparatory schools, GAO determined that the Air Force and the Navy had established performance goals and measures for their respective academies, but the Army had not. See Military Education: Additional DOD Guidance Is Needed to Enhance Oversight of the Service Academies and Their Preparatory Schools (GAO-12-327R) for GAO's February 2012 report.

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Academic achievementComparative analysisEducationEligibility criteriaEvaluation criteriaFederal service academiesHigher educationMilitary trainingPerformance measuresWaivers