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.

  • U.S Marines static line jump from a KC-130J Hercules over Drop Zone Basilone on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., December 10, 2020, photo by Lance Cpl. Drake Nickels/U.S. Marine Corps


    How Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Affect Separation from the U.S. Military

    Feb 8, 2021

    Exposure to sexual assault doubles the odds that a service member will separate from the military within 28 months. Those who are sexually harassed also have a higher risk of separation. In addition to the psychological and physical effects on the service member, this is costly for the services and harms military readiness.

  • Silhouettes of soldiers during Military Mission at dusk, photo by guvendemir/Getty Images


    Setting the Level and Annual Adjustment of Military Pay

    Dec 17, 2020

    Every four years, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) commissions a review of the military compensation system. How has military pay compared with civilian pay since the 1990s?

Explore Military Personnel Retention

  • Beth Asch summarizes testimony presented before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on March 12, 2019.


    Military Compensation to Support Retention, Performance, and Talent Management

    An overview of testimony by Beth J. Asch presented before the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Military Personnel on March 12, 2019.

    Mar 12, 2019

  • Navy Chief Petty Officer Omar Aleman briefs new recruits, photo by Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Camilo Fernan/U.S. Department of Defense


    Military Compensation to Support Retention, Performance, and Talent Management

    Military compensation is a critical strategic human resource tool. It helps attract and retain personnel with the necessary skills and qualifications to meet service requirements. The compensation system has performed well over time, but there are elements that could potentially be improved.

    Mar 12, 2019

  • Report


    The Relationship Between Disability Evaluation and Accession Medical Standards

    If accession medical policies are changed, does the probability of medical discharge change? If so, how does the change in the probability of medical discharge alter postservice costs to the department? This report answers these questions.

    Mar 11, 2019

  • Report


    Assessing Retention and Special and Incentive Pays for Army and Navy Commissioned Officers in the Special Operations Forces

    This report focuses on the effectiveness of monetary incentives, known as special and incentive pays, for U.S. Special Operations Forces commissioned officer retention.

    Feb 18, 2019

  • Soldier and financial symbols, graphic by GettyImages/CatLane and Fanatic Studio


    A Wage Differential Approach to Managing Special and Incentive Pay

    Special and incentive pays allow the DoD to address personnel fluctuations, differences between external and military pay, and retention. A review of such pays finds that those with an incentive to select a longer obligation are more cost-effective and may be more beneficial than pays without such incentive, as would be the case under 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

  • 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

    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.

    Oct 31, 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