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As the armed services transform to develop capabilities to meet a spectrum of uncertain threats, a constant objective will be to ensure the military’s compensation and personnel systems are structured to attract, retain, and promote high-quality personnel. This monograph provides evidence on the military’s ability to meet these goals in the past. We regenerate the quality index for a set of three-digit DoD occupations, and use it to examine whether high-quality personnel are enlisted, retained, and promoted to their early and midcareers, specifically to year of service (YOS) 4, YOS8, and YOS12. We use longitudinal data provided by the Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC). Using the quality index, we find that those who complete their first terms, who stay until YOS8 or YOS12, and those who are promoted to higher grades are significantly higher quality. Our conclusions differ from those drawn from traditional measures because our measure, the quality index, is designed to include information about quality that cannot be predicted at entry but is instead revealed on the job.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Measuring Personnel Quality

  • Chapter Three

    Personnel Quality in the First Term

  • Chapter Four

    Retention and Promotion of High-Quality Personnel in the Early and Midcareer

  • Chapter Five


  • Appendix A

    Trends in First-Term Attrition, Reenlistment, and Retention

  • Appendix B

    Early and Midcareer Retention Trends

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted in the RAND National Defense Research Institute, 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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