Military Personnel: DMDC Data on Officers' Commissioning Programs is Insufficiently Reliable and Needs to be Corrected

GAO-07-372R Published: Mar 08, 2007. Publicly Released: Mar 08, 2007.
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The Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) is a key Department of Defense (DOD) support organization that, among other things, generates reports for defense organizations such as the military services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Staff. External organizations such as GAO and federally funded research and development centers also rely on DMDC for quantitative data and analyses pertaining to a wide variety of issues, including the numbers of DOD personnel in specified occupations or demographic groups, servicemembers' attitudes, and compensation. DMDC reports to DOD's Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. In describing its databases, DMDC states that it maintains the largest archive of personnel, manpower, training, and financial data in DOD. It also notes that the personnel data are broad in scope and extend back to the early 1970s covering all services, all components of the total force (active duty, guard, reserve, and civilian), and all phases of the personnel life cycle (accession, separation, and retirement). DMDC data serve as the basis for DOD's annual Population Representation in the Military Forces which, among other things, provides information on the numbers of officers who were accessed into the military from each service's various commissioning programs: military academies, Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC), Officer Candidate Schools (OCS: for the Army, Navy, and Air Force) and Officer Training School (OTS: for the Air Force). On January 19, 2007, we issued a report on officer accessions, retention, and foreign language training. The purpose of this report is to bring to your attention reliability issues with DMDC data that we encountered while preparing our report and to provide you with our recommendations to address these issues.

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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 to require the Defense Manpower Data Center to reconcile its data with data from the services on accessions from the services' commissioning programs for current and past officers.
Closed – Implemented
In this report, we identified problems with the data analyses and databases that the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) used to provide information to us. In an April 2007 meeting, DMDC's Director stated that DMDC is taking steps to address the recommendations from this and other GAO reports. During the meeting the DMDC Director identified actions that DMDC had taken since the publication of this and other reports, as well as other actions still being implemented to improve DMDC data quality overall--rather than just in the databases where we had identified problems. For example, DMDC staff reviewed the Government Auditing Standards to understand GAO's need for data reliability metrics and completed three guides to enhance and standardize data management and data reporting procedures/processes. Also, the DMDC Director indicated that the agency would focus more effort on data reliability questionnaires for each GAO engagement in the future. In 2008 and again in 2009, DMDC implemented the changes that they had discussed with GAO in 2007.
Department of Defense The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to require the Defense Manpower Data Center to verify the accuracy of its corrected database through further analyses such as demographic breakouts (such as race, gender, and year accessed) for each officer commissioning program.
Closed – Not Implemented
DOD strongly nonconcurred with this recommendation and they closed the recommendation in their system in June 2007. Based upon DOD's initial rejection of this recommendation and their lack of action regarding the recommendation to date, the status of this recommendation is listed as closed and not implemented. However, GAO continues to believe that DOD's Defense Manpower Data Center should verify the accuracy of it personnel data base through further analyses for each officer commissioning program.

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