The Variable Tour Experiment in the Army Reserve Components

by Gus Haggstrom

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An analysis of an experiment in the Army Reserve Components to test whether reducing the term of enlistment for nonprior servicemen would have a substantial effect on recruiting. Guard and Reserve units in certain states were permitted to offer potential recruits the option of enlisting in a reserve unit for only three or four years instead of the usual six-year term. The effectiveness of these options in attracting new recruits is evaluated using a cross-sectional analysis of recruiting performance across states, allowing for differences among the states in demographic factors, strength characteristics of the reserve components, and amounts of recruiting activity. It appears that the three-year option (with three years in the Individual Ready Reserve) resulted in a 20-40 percent increase during the experimental period, and the four-year option (with two years in the IRR) yielded a 10-30 percent increase. The experiment is critiqued and the method for analyzing the data spelled out in detail.

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