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Research Question

  1. What are the impacts on retention or recruitment resulting from filling billets with IAs who are activated and deployed outside the normal Global Force Management cycle?

Since the United States began its Middle East campaigns in 2001, the joint force has required the assignment of individual augmentees (IAs) who are U.S. military members (such as those assigned to special duty in a military unit) to fill a shortage or provide particular skills. However, personnel assigned for an IA mission become unavailable for any other mission; also, other risks and opportunity costs might emerge, ranging from possible impacts on recruiting and retention to misalignment between force structure and assigned missions. There is a strong likelihood that other contingencies will arise, putting further demand on force structure. The process for assigning reserve units and IAs relies on Joint Staff requests for forces and Navy-specific processes. These assignments were intended to be a means of dealing with a short-term demand and relied on specific funding that was not intended to be a basis for standard budgeting and programming. It is not completely clear when and where the process for requesting support from IAs made a transition from an understandably abbreviated process for dealing with a crisis to a way of working around force structure management and force generation processes.

The authors examine the impact of individual augmentation on the Navy Reserve as it relates to recruiting, retention, individual and unit readiness, and ability to maintain a ratio of time deployed to time at home, specifically in mobilization of forces for duty in operations associated with the Global War on Terror and in response to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic.

Key Findings

  • In the case of unit deployments, there were two types: (1) portions of a unit, such as aviation squadron detachments, deployed as an intact and generally complete unit (although sometimes with assistance from other units) and (2) units that are formed at the deployed locations from collections of IAs, which appears to have been the case with many deployments of medical personnel.
  • Most IA billets were filled by volunteers (approximately 78 percent) with some variation depending on an individual's designator, deployment location, and other factors.
  • Personnel assigned for an IA mission are not available for any other mission. Other risks and opportunity costs might be present, ranging from possible impacts on recruiting and retention to misalignment between force structure and assigned missions.


  • Officials should formulate data collection plans to measure the impact of significant personnel initiatives. The presumption that IAs affected retention and recruiting simply is not borne out by the data. The lack of data does not mean that such effects existed; it simply means that data that would support such a view were never collected.
  • Officials should implement an exit survey for those individuals who have decided to separate from the Navy Reserve; the responses could help quantify the impacts of additional deployments on retention.
  • Officials should build into any temporary resourcing process a provision that automatically terminates the billet after three years. If the billet is to be sourced into the future, either it must be treated as a core billet or specific justification has to be provided for keeping it on an ad hoc basis.
  • Navy commands should not be allowed to request Navy-specific temporary billets. Navy commands have made liberal use of the IA process to request billets from the Navy. The Navy has resource allocation processes, and the practice of using the request-for-forces processes appears mostly to be used as an end run to attain a persistent want rather than as a mechanism for filling an actual short-term need.
  • Officials should perform a strategic assessment of enduring Navy missions. Navy reservists are performing important missions in Bahrain and Djibouti, and these should not necessarily be curtailed because the process of getting them to these missions was flawed or because of a generic "pivot to the Pacific."

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the Navy and Marine Forces Program of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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