Military Personnel: DOD Needs More Data Before It Can Determine if Costly Changes to the Reserve Retirement System Are Warranted

GAO-04-1005 Published: Sep 15, 2004. Publicly Released: Sep 15, 2004.
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Highlights

Since September 11, 2001, National Guard and Reserve personnel have served, and will continue to serve, a critical role in the Global War on Terrorism. As a consequence, Congress has focused attention on the fair treatment of reservists and directed GAO to review, among other things, the Department of Defense's (DOD) reserve retirement system. Currently, five legislative proposals exist that would lower the age when eligible reservists can receive their annuities. GAO assessed (1) DOD's reserve retirement system as compared to certain aspects of the active duty retirement system, (2) the extent to which DOD data suggest that changes to the reserve retirement system may be warranted, and (3) the potential costs and effects of the five legislative proposals.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, to specify desired metrics for measuring the retention or attrition rates of senior officer and enlisted reserve component personnel who are approaching retirement eligibility and, therefore, are most likely to be affected by changes to DOD's reserve component retirement system.
Closed – Not Implemented
In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation, and tasked RAND with doing some follow-up analyses and issuing a report to address the recommendation. According to DOD's Office of Reserve Affairs, RAND has had other commitments which have precluded RAND from publishing this report and closing the recommendation.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, to determine if gaps exist between the desired and actual rates of attrition.
Closed – Implemented
In response to this recommendation, the Department has initiated ongoing "Status of Forces" tracking procedures to monitor and respond to gaps between desired and actual Reserve attrition. Reserve personnel attrition data is tracked monthly by OSD/RA and the results are briefed personally to USD (P&R) on a quarterly basis. Current data indicates that officer and enlisted attrition levels for the Reserve Components are well within acceptable levels.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, to identify changes, if any, to the current reserve component retirement system that would address these gaps, to the extent that they exist.
Closed – Implemented
In response to GAO's recommendation, the Department has initiated ongoing "Status of Forces" tracking procedures to monitor and respond to gaps between desired and actual Reserve attrition. Reserve personnel attrition data is tracked monthly by OSD/RA and the results are briefed personally to USD (P&R) on a quarterly basis. Current data indicates that officer and enlisted attrition levels for the Reserve Components are well within acceptable levels.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs, to evaluate any changes to the reserve component retirement system and their associated long-term costs in the context of the total force.
Closed – Not Implemented
In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD concurred with this recommendation, and tasked RAND with doing some follow-up analyses and issuing a report to address the recommendation. According to DOD's Office of Reserve Affairs, RAND has had other commitments which have precluded RAND from publishing this report and closing the recommendation.

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