Cover: Learning About Quality

Learning About Quality

How the Quality of Military Personnel Is Revealed Over Time

Published 2003

by James Hosek, Michael G. Mattock


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The measure of quality described in this report extends the military services' customary definition of quality — high school diploma graduate and scoring in the upper half on the Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) — to include performance as indicated by speed of promotion during the first term. The authors detail an empirical model for learning about quality on the job during the first term, a period which reveals a large amount of information about a service member's quality. In the military, quality depends on the member's ability, effort, and taste for the military. The promotion process reveals this quality by establishing criteria that apply to all members and by promoting faster those members who are soonest to meet and surpass the criteria. Thus, the member's speed of promotion relative to that of peers is a yardstick of a member's quality. The research suggests that future assessment of personnel quality and of policies that affect quality should employ measures of quality that reflect both entry-level measures and performance in service. The analysis indicates that, according to the authors' extended definition of quality, the services retain higher-quality members, although they tend to lose high-AFQT members.

The research described in this report was conducted in RAND's National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center.

This report is part of the RAND monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of RAND from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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