Intern Programs as a Human Resources Management Tool for the Department of Defense

by Susan M. Gates, Christopher Paul


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The Department of Defense now faces the challenge of responding to the imminent retirement of a large proportion of its civilian workers and the impending U.S. military transformation that will likely require a larger civilian workforce to support a new force structure. One way in which DoD plans to address this challenge is through recruiting “the best talent available.” In its efforts to determine effective ways to recruit such workers, DoD asked the RAND Corporation to look at intern programs, characterizing DoD’s current intern programs, identifying best practices for intern programs among private-sector firms and other government agencies, and recommending approaches for improving such programs. This monograph describes RAND’s response, presenting and synthesizing insights and findings from interviews the authors conducted with managers of DoD and corporate intern programs, from a review of literature on intern programs, and from analyses of personnel data, and making specific DoD policy recommendations.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Types of Intern Programs

  • Chapter Three

    Characteristics of Successful Intern Programs

  • Chapter Four

    Organizational Options for Pre-Employment Intern Programs and Early Career Professional Development Programs

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Description of Case Study Programs

  • Appendix B

    Interview Protocol

The research described in this report was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a division of the RAND Corporation and a federally funded research and development center supported by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the unified commands, and the defense agencies.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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