Military Education:

DOD Needs to Align Academy Preparatory Schools' Mission Statements with Overall Guidance and Establish Performance Goals

GAO-03-1017: Published: Sep 10, 2003. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2003.

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Each year, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Military Academy, and the U.S. Naval Academy combined spend tens of millions of dollars to operate preparatory schools that provide an alternative avenue for about 700 students annually to gain admission to the service academies. Service academy officials screen all applicants to identify those who they believe could succeed at the academies but who would benefit from more preparation. The Department of Defense (DOD) pays the full cost of providing this preparation. GAO was asked to review the three service academy preparatory schools, and this report specifically assesses (1) the adequacy of their current mission statements, (2) the effectiveness of these schools in accomplishing their missions, and (3) the effectiveness of DOD oversight of these schools.

The three service academy preparatory schools' current mission statements do not clearly articulate the purpose for which the schools are being used by their respective service academies. In accordance with DOD guidance and the service academies' expectations, the preparatory schools give primary consideration for enrollment to enlisted personnel, minorities, women, and recruited athletes. However, the preparatory school mission statements are not clearly aligned with DOD guidance and the academies' expectations. This is a continuing problem, which GAO first reported in 1992. Without clear mission statements, the service academies and their respective preparatory schools cannot establish goals that fully reflect the preparatory schools' intended purpose. It is difficult to evaluate how effective the preparatory schools have been in accomplishing their missions because the service academies have not established performance goals for the preparatory schools. Without specific performance goals, there is no objective yardstick against which to gauge preparatory school effectiveness, as would be consistent with the principle of best practices for ensuring optimal return on investment. The effectiveness of DOD, military service, and service academy oversight is limited because the existing oversight framework for assessing preparatory school performance does not include performance goals and measures against which to objectively assess performance. DOD and the services receive annual reports from the academies on preparatory school performance. Without stated performance goals and measures, however, the reports do not offer DOD, the services, or the service academies as good an insight into the preparatory schools' performance and their return on investment as they could.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In February 2012, GAO reported that DOD had only partially implemented GAO's 2003 recommendation regarding the preparatory schools. Specifically, while conducting a follow-up review of DOD's oversight of the academies and preparatory schools, GAO determined that the Air Force had clarified the mission statement of its preparatory school, but the Army and Navy had not. See Military Education: Additional DOD Guidance Is Needed to Enhance Oversight of the Service Academies and Their Preparatory Schools (GAO-12-327R) for GAO's February 2012 report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the service headquarters and service academies, to clarify the preparatory schools' mission statements by aligning these statements with the department's guidance and the academies' expectations, which target student groups for primary enrollment consideration.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In February 2012, GAO reported that DOD had only partially implemented GAO's 2003 recommendation regarding the preparatory schools. Specifically, while conducting a follow-up review of DOD's oversight of the academies and preparatory schools, GAO determined that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness had not established performance goals and quantifiable measures across the services. GAO determined that the Air Force, however, had taken independent action that was consistent with the intent GAO's recommendation. See Military Education: Additional DOD Guidance Is Needed to Enhance Oversight of the Service Academies and Their Preparatory Schools (GAO-12-327R) for GAO's February 2012 report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the service headquarters and service academies, to establish quantified performance goals and measures, linked with the schools' mission statements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In February 2012, GAO reported that DOD had only partially implemented GAO's 2003 recommendation regarding the preparatory schools. Specifically, while conducting a follow-up review of DOD's oversight of the academies and preparatory schools, GAO determined that the Air Force was using performance goals and quantifiable measures to evaluate the performance of its preparatory school, but the Army and Navy were not. See Military Education: Additional DOD Guidance Is Needed to Enhance Oversight of the Service Academies and Their Preparatory Schools (GAO-12-327R) for GAO's February 2012 report.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the service headquarters and service academies, to enhance the existing oversight framework by using quantified performance goals and measures to objectively evaluate the performance of the preparatory schools.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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