Military Personnel Retention


The retention of qualified military personnel—enlisted forces as well as officers—is essential to preserving morale and unit readiness and to avoiding the costs associated with training replacement personnel in essential skills. By examining issues from PERSTEMPO and the effects of multiple deployments to family readiness and child care, RAND research supports military leaders' efforts to monitor and successfully maintain an optimal force structure.

  • Soldiers with U.S. Army Cyber Command take part in network defense training


    How the Army Can Retain Its Cyber Expertise

    Sep 18, 2017

    Projected earnings for information security analysts with characteristics similar to those of enlisted soldiers are comparable with military pay. But retention efforts may be hampered by soldiers' perceptions of civilian opportunities.

  • Pfc. Lena Wright, a supply clerk, catalogs and monitors class VIII supplies during a mass casualty exercise, October 17, 2012


    An Inside Look at Life in the Army's Junior Ranks

    Oct 31, 2018

    History records the names of generals, not of the privates filling out supply forms, cleaning out trucks, or huffing through another training exercise. But those privates keep the U.S. Army running. RAND research provides their unfiltered take on life in the ranks.

Explore Military Personnel Retention

  • Report

    A Wage Differential Approach to Managing Special and Incentive Pay

    The authors review special and incentive pays and the potential to convert some into a wage differential, finding pays with an incentive to select a longer military obligation more cost-effective and possibly more beneficial than a wage differential.

    Jan 7, 2019

  • Collage of 2018 most popular commentary images


    Most Popular RAND Blog Commentary of 2018

    RAND experts publish hundreds of pieces of RAND Blog commentary every year, weighing in on pressing policy questions, breaking down current events, and untangling complex trends. To look back on some of the policy stories that defined the year, we've rounded up the RAND Blog pieces that resonated most with visitors.

    Dec 20, 2018

  • A woman holding a diploma


    Scholarships Associated with Employment and Higher Earnings for Military Spouses

    MyCAA Scholarships aim to help military spouses obtain associate's degrees, occupational certificates, or licenses in high-demand portable career fields. They are associated with employment and higher earnings, and service members married to MyCAA users are more likely to be on active duty three years later.

    Nov 29, 2018

  • A woman graduating

    Research Brief

    Scholarships Improve Work Prospects for Military Spouses

    MyCAA Scholarships are reaching the intended population—military spouses who want or need work, who are early in their careers, and who face military moves and deployments. Findings regarding work and earnings are promising, and personnel married to MyCAA users are more likely to still be on active duty three years after the scholarship is awarded.

    Nov 29, 2018

  • Wargaming at the U.S. Army Command and Staff College on Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, March 9, 2018


    Building a Pipeline of Wargaming Talent: A Two-Track Solution

    How does the Department of Defense imagine the future of war and make long-term investments to confront the challenges ahead? On issues ranging from potential conflicts with Russia to the future of transportation and logistics, senior leaders have increasingly turned to wargames to imagine potential futures.

    Nov 15, 2018

  • A U.S. Marine Corps soldier and his family outside their home


    Frequent Moves Affect Military Family Stability

    About one-third of military service members experience a permanent change of station every year. Sometimes the moves have a positive effect, such as moving to a more desirable location, but they can also disrupt family stability. The DoD offers programs, policies, and services to address the disruptions.

    Oct 18, 2018

  • Naval Postgraduate School students participate in analytic wargames they designed to explore solutions for some of DoD's most pressing national security concerns


    Just Let Them Compete: Raising the Next Generation of Wargamers

    Wargames are games that simulate aspects of warfare at varying levels, aimed at analyzing human decisionmaking. To develop the next generation of avid wargamers, the first step is both radical and simple: Let them compete.

    Oct 9, 2018

  • U.S. Army Forces Command's Command Sgt. Maj. speaks to soldiers at Ft. Campbell, May 22, 2018


    How Do Senior Enlisted Leaders Influence Junior Soldiers?

    The primary mission of U.S. Army noncommissioned officers is to lead and mentor soldiers. But research has placed little emphasis on how to value their experience. Knowing how NCOs influence soldiers can help the Army maintain or improve leadership quality and soldier performance and reduce personnel costs.

    Oct 4, 2018

  • Report

    Evaluating the Impact of a Total Force Service Commitment Policy on Air Force Pilot Manning: An Exploratory Application of Inventory Modeling

    The authors examine whether a Total Force (rather than component-specific) service commitment with increased service commitment lengths could reduce or eliminate projected pilot shortages in the Air Force.

    Sep 18, 2018

  • Report

    Supplemental Career Paths for Air Force Pilots: A Warrant Officer Component or an Aviation Technical Track?

    This report documents analyses of two ways to supplement the traditional Air Force pilot career path to enhance force sustainment: a warrant officer component to fill pilot requirements or an aviation technical track for commissioned officers.

    Aug 14, 2018

  • Airman 1st Class Summer Toney, 1st Lt. Ashley Guthrie Capt. Kate Bufton, Capt. Emily Nelson, Tech. Sgt. Lori Tascione and Staff Sgt. Krysteena Scales make up an 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron flight crew, March 19, 2005


    The U.S. Air Force Is Working Harder to Retain Female Officers, and Here's How

    Women are underrepresented among the U.S. Air Force's senior leadership. This could be robbing the service of the potential to improve innovation, agility, and performance. The Air Force is working to address diversity in the service, and it continues to work to improve representation of women within its ranks.

    Aug 6, 2018

  • Report

    Prospective Outcome Assessment for Alternative Recruit Selection Policies

    To help the Army select recruits more likely to complete their first term and avoid adverse outcomes, this report describes a tool that estimates how changes in a variety of recruit characteristics affect first-term outcomes and costs to the Army.

    Jul 6, 2018

  • New Army recruits


    Who Joins the Army, and Why?

    The U.S. Army wants to improve its understanding of soldiers' motivations to enlist, and how the reality of Army life matches up with expectations. Interviews with soldiers ranked E-1 to E-4 offer a rich portrayal of life as a private.

    May 14, 2018

  • A 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron A-10 Thunderbolt II pilot in her aircraft during the squadron's deployment in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve at Graf Ignatievo, Bulgaria, March 18, 2016


    How the U.S. Air Force Could Retain More Female Officers

    Women are underrepresented among the Air Force's senior leadership compared with their representation among the lower ranks. Focus groups with female officers identified key retention factors and potential ways to improve Air Force policies and programs to address female officer retention.

    Apr 10, 2018

  • U.S. Army officers on foot in Alaska


    Capping Retired Pay for Senior Field Grade Officers

    Mid-grade U.S. Army officers who began their careers as enlisted personnel could potentially retire with more years of service than high-grade officers. What would be the effect of capping retired pay for mid-grade military personnel so that only those in the highest grades and with the most years of service would receive the highest retired pay?

    Mar 12, 2018

  • An MQ-9 pilot


    A Career Field Planning Tool to Build a Healthy MQ-1/9 RPA Pilot Community

    The personnel who operate remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) are crucial in the Air Force, but many in the RPA career field are dissatisfied, and it is difficult to train and retain enough pilots to meet the demand. To assist in building a healthy, sustainable RPA career field, RAND has developed a long-term RPA career field planning model.

    Jan 23, 2018

  • Report

    Air Force Non-Rated Technical Training: Opportunities for Improving Pipeline Processes

    This report identifies opportunities for optimizing processes and policies in the U.S. Air Force nonrated technical training pipeline and recommends process and policy changes that could improve efficiency at all levels.

    Dec 18, 2017

  • Dissertation

    I Hear What You Are Saying: Analysis of USAF Rated Officer Comments from the 2015 Military Career Decisions Survey

    Using data from the USAF 2015 Active Duty Career Decisions Survey, this dissertation employs a range of qualitative data analysis techniques to examine the open-ended response questions related to a pilot's decision to remain or depart the service.

    Nov 20, 2017

  • Report

    Review of Army Total Force Policy Implementation

    This report reviews the implementation of the Army's Total Force Policy. The Army has made progress in integrating the Regular Army, Army National Guard, and U.S. Army Reserve, but budget constraints have limited implementation.

    Oct 24, 2017