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.

  • Marines with Marine Corps Recruiting Command march in the cake for the 246th Marine Corps birthday at the Clubs of Quantico, Virginia, November 4, 2021, photo by Lance Cpl. Jennifer Sanchez/U.S. Marine Corps


    How the Pandemic Affected Military Recruitment and Retention

    Jan 18, 2022

    Military recruiting and retention activities are typically conducted in person, but with COVID-19–related stay-at-home orders and social distancing requirements, the armed services had to quickly adapt their policies and procedures or risk missing their end strength objectives.

  • 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.

Explore Military Personnel Retention

  • Spc. Eva Perry is assigned to B Company, 782nd Military Intelligence (MI) Battalion (Cyber), Fort Gordon, Georgia and is the 2019 Soldier of the Year and the 780th Military Intelligence Brigade (Cyber) Best Warrior (Soldier), and Cpl. Kyle Tamraz is assigned to B Company, 781st MI Battalion (Cyber), Fort Meade, Maryland, and is the Noncommissioned Officer of the Year and brigade's Best Warrior (NCO), photo by Steven P Stover (INSCOM)/U.S. Army


    Fostering Skills and Creating New Pipelines for Military Service

    The latest National Defense Authorization Act provides seven new authorities enabling the services to access, retain, and promote competitive officers. What are some considerations for using them to address compensation, performance data collection, and the civil-military divide?

    May 16, 2019

  • The U.S. Coast Guard Academy Class of 2019 reports to campus on R-Day, June 29, 2015, photo by PO2 Cory J. Mendenhall/U.S. Coast Guard


    Why Women Belong in Coast Guard Crews

    The Coast Guard benefits from the heightened respect that colleagues show each other in mixed-gender units, allowing personnel to focus and excel at their tasks at hand. When the Coast Guard zeroes in on evidence-based and appropriate accommodations for women and their physical capacities, as well as with parenting and family life, it will benefit everyone in uniform.

    Apr 18, 2019

  • Air Force Maj. Michael Odle, Defense Department assistant director of military compensation policy, reviews the DoD course content for the Blended Retirement System opt-in training at the Pentagon, Jan. 30, 2017, photo by Lisa Ferdinando/U.S. Army


    Effects of the Blended Retirement System on U.S. Army Reserve Participation and Cost

    The new Blended Retirement System (BRS) represents the first major change to the armed services' retirement system since the end of World War II. An analysis assesses the potential impact of the BRS on the U.S. Army Reserve participation and continuation pay cost and provides predictions of opt-in behavior.

    Apr 15, 2019

  • News Release

    News Release

    Women Leave U.S. Coast Guard at Higher Rates Than Men; More Equitable Personnel Policies Could Help Narrow Gap

    As at other military services, women leave the active-duty Coast Guard at higher rates than men. To retain a diverse workforce the Coast Guard should continue to pursue more inclusive personnel policies, such as augmenting workforce gaps during parental leave, minimizing the impact parental leave has on evaluations and promotion, and expanding opportunities for leadership development training.

    Mar 29, 2019

  • The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Stratton stands by to offload 34 metric tons of cocaine in San Diego on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Patrick Kelley/Defense Visual Information Distribution Service


    Improving Gender Diversity in the U.S. Coast Guard: Identifying Barriers to Female Retention

    This report documents the results of a study designed to help identify the root causes of female attrition in the active-duty Coast Guard and develop recommendations to help mitigate identified barriers to Coast Guard female retention.

    Mar 29, 2019

  • Petty Officer 1st Class Krystyna Duffy, a boatswain's mate assigned to Coast Guard Station Golden Gate in San Francisco, drives a 47-foot Motor Lifeboat near the Golden Gate Bridge, February 8, 2018, photo by PO3 Sarah Wi/U.S. Coast Guard

    Research Brief

    Why Do Women Leave the Coast Guard, and What Could Encourage Them to Stay?

    Women leave the Coast Guard at higher rates than men. Focus groups raised concerns about work environment, career issues, and personal life matters. More inclusive personnel policies could help the Coast Guard address these concerns and retain more women.

    Mar 29, 2019

  • Pilots from the 388th Fighter Wing's 4th Fighter Squadron participating in Red Flag 19-1 at Nellis AFB, Nevada, January 31, 2019, photo by R. Nial Bradshaw/U.S. Air Force


    Is It More Cost-Effective to Retain Pilots or Train New Ones?

    Instead of relying on retaining its current pilots, the U.S. Air Force could hypothetically find and train new ones. But expanding the pilot training pipeline is costly. What is the best way for the Air Force to allocate its resources and sustain its number of pilots?

    Mar 27, 2019

  • 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