Military Personnel:

Management and Oversight of Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program Needs Improvement

GAO-03-149: Published: Nov 25, 2002. Publicly Released: Nov 25, 2002.

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Because of the recent growth in DOD's Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program, the House Appropriations Committee asked GAO to determine (1) the extent to which the services have followed their criteria for managing their programs and (2) whether DOD has provided adequate guidance for and oversight of the program.

The Navy and Air Force have not used all of the criteria they have established for selecting critical military specialties eligible for bonuses under their Selective Reenlistment Bonus Programs. The Army's guidance does not include specific criteria for selecting critical specialties. Since these services have not used all of their criteria, the number of eligible specialties and the number of enlisted personnel who receive bonuses have expanded. Moreover, the services did not manage their programs to stay within their budgets appropriated by Congress. The Department of Defense's (DOD) budget for the Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program has more than tripled in recent years--from $235 million in fiscal year 1997 to an estimated $789 million in fiscal year 2002. DOD has not provided adequate guidance for and oversight of its Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program. DOD canceled an instruction that established criteria for selecting specialties for the program. Without this instruction, DOD cannot be sure that the program is being implemented as intended. Also, DOD has not reviewed the services' processes for selecting critical specialties or for establishing their corresponding bonus levels, despite requirements to do so annually. Thus, DOD has not ensured that the services are implementing their programs appropriately to help improve short-term retention in critical military specialties

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's oversight and the services' management of the Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program, the Secretary of Defense should require that the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness issue an instruction that provides the services with guidance for administering and selecting specialties for inclusion in their programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 15, 2004, DOD issued a revised instruction that provides recommended guidance to govern the services? use of the selective reenlistment bonus (SRB) program. Rather than issuing the guidance under the previous instruction number 1304.22, DOD issued a new instruction DODI 1304.29. This instruction replaces DODI 1304.22, which was rescinded in 1996. This new instruction provides the services with guidance for administering and selecting specialties for inclusion in their SRB programs.

    Recommendation: In the absence of a DOD instruction governing the services' implementation of the program, the Secretary of Defense should require services to manage their programs to stay within their appropriations or, if circumstances require, provide the Office of the Secretary of Defense with adequate justification for increased expenditures over appropriated amounts.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD stated that it would take no action since "Established criteria permit the Services to selectively target their resources to meet service-unique retention needs in a timely and cost effective manner. The criteria were written to provide flexibility for Service management to meet their inventory shortfalls. The DOD criteria are sound and the Services' processes are balanced. Although the Army does not have a program regulation, the criteria it uses are sound. In administering the program, standards are in place to review historical and projected strengths, current and historical retention data, replacement costs, levels of fill by skill level, and readiness. These tools are used to determine if a specialty needs a bonus to ensure the required fill and experience balance and senior level Army officials review and approve bonus awards."

    Recommendation: In the absence of a DOD instruction governing the services' implementation of the program, the Secretary of Defense should require services to apply all the criteria they have established for selecting critical specialties under their Selective Reenlistment Bonus Programs. In the case of the Army, criteria should be established for selecting critical specialties.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD reported that established criteria permit the Services to selectively target their resources to meet service-unique retention needs in a timely and cost effective manner. The criteria were written to provide flexibility for Service management to meet their inventory shortfalls. The DOD criteria are sound and the Services? processes are balanced. Although the Army does not have a program regulation, the criteria it uses are sound. In administering the program, standards are in place to review historical and projected strengths, current and historical retention data, replacement costs, levels of fill by skill level, and readiness. These tools are used to determine if a specialty needs a bonus to ensure the required fill and experience balance, and senior level Army officials review and approve bonus awards.

    Recommendation: To improve DOD's oversight and the services' management of the Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program, the Secretary of Defense should require that the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness conduct annual reviews of the Selective Reenlistment Bonus Program as required by DOD's directive.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD has taken action to implement this recommendation. In December 2004, the department completed the development of a metric to track reenlistment for skills deemed most critical for retention by the Services. It began reporting the metric for the first quarter of this fiscal year at the quarterly Balanced Score Card briefing to the USD(P&R).

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