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National Security Snapshot: DOD Active-Duty Recruitment and Retention Challenges

GAO-23-106551 Published: Mar 28, 2023. Publicly Released: Mar 28, 2023.
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Fast Facts

According to the Department of Defense, only a quarter of Americans between the ages of 17 and 24 can meet military service requirements, such as those for education and physical fitness. So how can DOD maintain the number of active-duty service members it needs for national security?

This Snapshot looks at our prior work on military recruitment and retention. We've recommended ways to help DOD get and keep the qualified people it needs, including:

  • Tracking data on personnel in key roles like cybersecurity
  • Updating military tattoo policies to clarify waiver eligibility
  • Monitoring whether pay and non-pay incentive programs are effective

A classic poster of the Uncle Sam Wants You for the US Army slogan sitting on top of an American flag

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GAO has reported on the Department of Defense's efforts to recruit and retain active-duty service members, including those in certain specialty occupations. This report highlights some of the challenges GAO has identified, as well as key relevant GAO recommendations meant to address the challenges.

For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at (202) 512-3604 or

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