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Highlights

Congress has established a legislative framework that shapes the careers and the management of general and flag officers. The Department of Defense (DOD) has proposed eliminating or amending a number of legislative provisions, such as revising existing statutory retirement limits based on age and years of service, to provide greater flexibility in managing its senior officers in order to retain experienced leaders. GAO is issuing this report in response to a mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2003. GAO's objectives were to (1) develop a profile of general and flag officer careers and (2) assess DOD's justification for its general and flag officer legislative proposals.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense To help achieve DOD's goal of retaining experienced leaders, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) to evaluate options for extending general and flag officer careers within the existing legislative framework. This evaluation should include an assessment of (1) factors that contribute to the retirement of senior general and flag officers prior to the statutory retirement limits, (2) the need for changes in DOD policy or procedure to make greater use of existing authority to extend general and flag officers careers on a case-by-case basis beyond the statutory retirement limits, and (3) the long-term cost implications of proposals to change retirement compensation.
Closed - Not Implemented
DOD did not concur with this recommendation, stating that the options for extending general and flag officer careers within the existing legislative framework already had been considered and found wanting. Since we issued our report, DOD has continued to seek changes in the legislative framework for managing general and flag officers, and Congress has approved several changes. For example, the Fiscal Year 2007 National Defense Authorization Act extended the mandatory retirement age for active duty general and flag officers. For the Fiscal Year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, DOD proposed eliminating mandatory retirement for years of service or time in grade for general and flag offices above the grade of major general or rear admiral.

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