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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on recent trends in retention rates among officers and enlisted personnel in the four armed services, focusing on: (1) how much information the Department of Defense (DOD) has on retention trends across the services; and (2) analyzing changes in retention rates in the aggregate and by career stage and occupation from 1988 through 1998.

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Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Defense 1. In order to have timely and useful data on military retention, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Office of Force Management Policy to expand its ongoing efforts to monitor retention by conducting more systematic and comprehensive assessments of military personnel retention on an annual basis. Such assessments should examine overall retention across the services among enlisted personnel and officers as well as by key units and career and occupational groups. It is important that the assessments use consistent and reliable data and measures and appropriate time period to identify long- and short-term changes in retention. In addition, information on accessions, attrition, and end strength (total personnel assigned) should be incorporated into the assessments to provide a more comprehensive picture of gains and losses in personnel. Furthermore, information on requirements is needed to provide a context to determine whether changes in retention are meeting established goals. Finally, findings and conclusions about retention problems should be well supported and clearly communicated to Congress and other decisionmakers in a timely and consistent manner.
Closed - Implemented
DOD concurred with GAO's recommendation to conduct more systematic and comprehensive assessments of military retention and communicate the results to Congress and other decision-makers in a timely manner. DOD has indicated that it will assess GAO's methodology and integrate it into ongoing efforts where appropriate or merited. DOD has established a retention working group to discuss retention issues and conducts monthly assessments of retention and recruiting trends across the services.

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