Research Brief

Diminished resources have driven the Army into a relentless search for more cost-effective ways to train its forces. It also wants to tighten the links between Active and Reserve Component (AC and RC) training with an eye to improving the quality. To help accomplish both goals, the Army created the Total Army School System (TASS), whose objective is to consolidate the once-separate school systems of the active Army, the National Guard, and the Army Reserve. To date, however, the emphasis has fallen largely on the organization and management of the Reserve Component institutions. Earlier research by RAND Arroyo Center had shown that consolidation within the RC system could yield efficiencies, and the question arose whether consolidation across the AC and RC would yield like benefits. A team of Arroyo Center researchers carried out some exploratory research and published its findings in Consolidating Active and Reserve Component Training Infrastructure. The researchers found that any of the options they explored for conducting maintenance training offered savings ranging from 15 to 43 percent over a baseline case, at the same time increasing cross-component interaction among AC and RC trainers and students.

What the Study Explored

The TASS concept organized the United States into training regions and consolidated a number of RC institutions. Although the links between AC and RC training were tightened, the AC still trains its own soldiers, and the RC provides most of the training to its members separately. To determine whether further consolidation offered any efficiencies, the Arroyo Center study employed an optimization model to explore the potential benefits of consolidating maintenance training across the components. Under this scheme, a soldier would be trained at the nearest accredited school, regardless of which component operated it. The model examined only skill-producing and noncommissioned officer training in the maintenance field, because initial training is by law an AC responsibility.

Three Options Considered

Researchers considered three options: nearest school, reassign courses, and consolidate schools. In the nearest school option, the optimization model simply assigns a student to the nearest school offering the needed training, regardless of component. Thus, an AC or RC student attends the closest school to take the course needed. Two potential benefits accrue. First, many of the schools are at or very close to students' home stations, allowing them to attend without drawing temporary duty pay or travel allowances. A second, less tangible benefit is that AC soldiers spend fewer days away from home, a particularly valuable benefit at a time when soldiers are facing increased numbers of deployments. The reassign courses option entails modifying courses offered at schools based on local demand. Either an AC or an RC school can offer a course if there is sufficient local demand. This option has two cases: the multifunctional case offers a wide range of courses at an RC school; the specialized case offers a limited range of related functional courses at an RC school. The consolidate schools option considers the total number of schools needed to meet the integrated training requirement. This option examines the potential for RC schools to assume new missions, such as establishing a regional training site for transportation courses, based on local demands.

Results Show Potential Efficiencies

Figure 1. All Options Have Less Travel Cost than Baseline

The results show that all three options promise cost savings. Figure 1 displays the savings associated with travel costs. The leftmost bar shows the baseline comparison, the actual travel costs associated with FY96 schooling. The bars to the right show the cost of each option as a percentage of the baseline cost. All options cost less than the baseline. The "reassign multiple courses" option saves the most; it costs only 53 percent as much as the baseline.

Figure 2. Options Reduce Soldier Time Away from Home

All options also reduce the amount of time students must be away from home. As shown in Figure 2, these options lower the amount of time separated from 78 percent of the baseline for the nearest school option to 89 percent for the reassign schools option (which offers only a few functional specialties). Even small reductions in "time away" are important to both the AC and the RC, because they keep soldiers available to their units and close to their families.

Implications and Recommendations

This research was exploratory rather than definitive, and a number of issues would have to be thoroughly assessed before implementing full-scale changes. However, it has intriguing implications. The research focused on maintenance training, but in principle it could be extended to other functional areas. Similarly, the analysis addressed only enlisted training, but it could extend to officer training as well.

Potential benefits are substantial. Applying the approaches explored here across the TASS would shift a considerable number of AC courses to RC schools. At a minimum, such a shift would reduce the workload on AC cadre, who in recent years have been stretched thin by staff reductions. The shift might also enable the Army to reduce the number of AC soldiers assigned as school instructors and help alleviate personnel shortages in units. However, this option cannot be pursued without a more careful analysis.

Given current usage levels, there appears to be no need for additional RC instructors to accommodate the increased load. Furthermore, the analysis shows that the number of people who support the schools by maintaining facilities, operating ranges, and so forth appears to be relatively insensitive to the training workload at the school. Therefore, increases at RC schools and decreases at AC schools would not significantly alter support workforce requirements.

Another notable advantage would be the need for students to spend less time away from home. Not only would this reduce the stress on the students and their families, it would also save the Army travel and per-diem costs.

Finally, perhaps the most important long-term benefit would be closer face-to-face contact among AC and RC soldiers. Having AC soldiers attend RC schools could improve the overall integration of the force, enhancing mutual respect and understanding between the two components. Since the RC schools are fully accredited, the training they supply would be the same as that of an AC school.

RAND Arroyo Center has recommended that the Army implement a pilot test to illuminate all the policy and resource implications of consolidation. Such a test might involve selecting two or three RC regional training sites, possibly those located on AC installations, to conduct AC-configured courses. An AC location could offer RC-configured skill reclassification courses.

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