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Research Questions

  1. What is the overall definition of general military training?
  2. What general military training is required, whether by law or by policy?
  3. What are the different methods of delivering training?
  4. What is the baseline of common requirements across the Department of Defense and the services?
  5. How can the time requirements and the burden of training be reduced?

Every uniformed service member, whether Active Component (AC) or Reserve Component (RC), must complete ancillary or general military training (GMT) requirements prescribed by his or her service. Individual services direct some topics, and some are stipulated by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). DoD has identified a need to reduce cyclic mandatory training requirements (especially for the RCs), thus reducing the training burden on the services and making the most of available training time. The RAND National Defense Research Institute was asked to examine the services' mandatory military training requirements and examine options to standardize requirements and reduce the training burden. This report responds to that request by providing a common definition of GMT and examining both the guidance that directs GMT completion and the services' approaches to conducting GMT. The authors identified GMT requirements directed by law and policy and interviewed service AC and RC subject-matter experts.

Key Findings

General Military Training Is Defined Differently by Each Service and the Department of Defense

  • The authors developed a sponsor-approved working definition: General military training is periodic, nonoccupational directed training that provides common knowledge and skills required for all uniformed personnel. It enhances an individual's ability to perform military duties or activities.

Services Deliver Training in Different Topics

  • Although some training topics are common among the services' programs, many topics are unique to each service.
  • Some topics that are mandatory in one service are not mandatory in others.
  • The services also vary with regard to the number of required topics on which uniformed personnel must receive training.
  • Although Department of Defense guidance directs training requirements that are required by law, many requirements are driven solely by service policy.
  • The services develop and provide general military training independently, and the prescribed delivery methods are different.

Services Deliver Training Using Different Methods

  • Delivery methods range from traditional, instructor-provided training in a classroom to computer-based training.
  • The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps prescribe instructor-led training as the primary delivery method.
  • The Air Force's and Coast Guard's primary method is computer-based training.
  • Computer-based training can be interactive, in which a comprehension test is included in the instruction, or noninteractive (no comprehension test).
  • Some general military training is completed through hands-on work.
  • Some topics are augmented or delivered by video instruction.
  • The preferred method of delivering the training also varies by service and, in some cases, by component within each service.

Each of the Services Provides Training in Fourteen General Military Training Topics

  • The 14 topics that each service provides in some form are antiterrorism, counterintelligence awareness, Code of Conduct, combating trafficking in persons, equal opportunity, information assurance, North American Treaty Organization security, operations security, physical fitness, Privacy Act, sexual assault prevention and response, sexual harassment, substance abuse prevention, and suicide prevention.

There Are Ways to Reduce the Amount of Time Required for General Military Training

  • Standardizing instruction can reduce time required to prepare and update materials.
  • Some topics can be changed from required to highly encouraged.
  • Related topics can be combined, reducing administrative time spent on each.
  • Some topics could be event-driven instead of routinely required.
  • Periodicity could be extended.
  • Audience could be reduced by mandate or exam.


  • DoD and the services should consider using a DoD-wide accessible site that the services and components could use to download standardized curricula.
  • DoD should consider adopting standardized computer-based training.
  • DoD should perform a gatekeeper role for future training requirements.
  • DoD must engage with and get buy-in from stakeholders.
  • All existing and new training requirements need to be challenged to determine whether they are needed or whether they could be standardized and reduced.
  • DoD should issue a single DoD directive that lists all general military training requirements.
  • DoD, in conjunction with the services, should review the options that the services have implemented in their general military training curricula.

The research described in this report was prepared for the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by OSD, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND technical report series. RAND technical reports may include research findings on a specific topic that is limited in scope or intended for a narrow audience; present discussions of the methodology employed in research; provide literature reviews, survey instruments, modeling exercises, guidelines for practitioners and research professionals, and supporting documentation; or deliver preliminary findings. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure that they meet high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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