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

    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.

    Jan 18, 2022

  • 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

    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.

    Feb 8, 2021

Explore Military Personnel Retention

  • 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

  • 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

  • U.S. Army officer returning from Afghanistan holds his son for the first time during a redeployment ceremony at Fort Hood, December 9, 2016


    Are Soldiers Getting What They Need?

    In addition to typical household issues, U.S. military families deal with unique challenges, such as deployments and frequent moves. A survey of more than 7,000 active-duty soldiers provides insight into the problems they face, their needs, and the resources they use.

    Oct 9, 2017

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


    How the Army Can Retain Its Cyber Expertise

    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.

    Sep 18, 2017

  • Composite image of U.S. flag with graphs and a pen


    The Blended Retirement System: Retention Effects and Continuation Pay Cost Estimates for the Armed Services

    This report assesses the effects of the Blended Retirement System on military retention and continuation pay cost for the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marine Corps, and Navy and finds that retention can be sustained relative to the legacy system.

    Aug 15, 2017

  • First Sgt. Raquel Steckman, with the 374th Engineer Company (Sapper), headquartered in Concord, California, jokes with her Soldiers before the start of formation.


    Military Power Is All About People: A Return to Personnel Policy

    Ensuring the strength of U.S. armed forces is critical to U.S. national security and the key source of strength is its people. True investment in personnel is a long-term legacy and an investment worthy of attention and policy debate to ensure the United States continues to recruit and retain the most effective fighting force in the world.

    Jul 27, 2017