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Posted July 19, 2010.
Updated April 28, 2011.

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The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have placed considerable strain on service members, particularly those in the Army and Marine Corps. This research responds to widespread concern about the ability of the services to maintain required force levels under these circumstances. The research reviews deployment trends, develops a theoretical model, and analyzes both survey and administrative data. Survey data findings show that deployment increased both work and personal stress and reduced the intention to reenlist as reported at the time of the survey, but it had little effect on subsequent reenlistment. Administrative data showed how the effect of deployment varied by year and differed between first- and second-term reenlistment for each branch of service. The effect of deployment on reenlistment was positive or near zero in most years but became negative for the Army in 2006 and 2007. Analysis traced the negative effect to those soldiers with the highest cumulative months of deployment, whereas soldiers with few months of deployment had a positive effect. Findings for the Marine Corps were similar, but with shorter deployments, fewer Marines accumulated high cumulative months of deployment. The research also considered the roles of deployment pay and reenlistment bonuses in supporting overall reenlistment, which was especially important for the Army, in which the effect of deployment became negative.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Background and Review of Selected Literature

  • Chapter Three

    Modeling Deployment and Reenlistment

  • Chapter Four

    Data Sources and Analysis Samples

  • Chapter Five

    Econometric Model

  • Chapter Six

    Empirical Results Using Survey Data

  • Chapter Seven

    Empirical Results Using Administrative Data

  • Chapter Eight

    The Role of Reenlistment Bonuses in Sustaining Retention

  • Chapter Nine


  • Appendix A

    A Model of Reenlistment Bonus Setting

  • Appendix B

    relationship Between Bias in Estimated Bonus Effect and Estimated Deployment Effect

  • Appendix C

    Additional Regression Results

  • Appendix D

    Comparison with Hansen and Eenger's Navy Pay Elasticity

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 sponsored by the OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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