Defense Issues: Volume 11, Number 27-- Quality People: Lifeblood of a Quality Force As DoD reaches the end of its drawdown, it is increasingly important to examine the factors that sustain the quality and commitment of the men and women who will make up the force of the future.
Volume 11, Number 27
Quality People: Lifeblood of a Quality Force
Prepared statement of Fred Pang, assistant secretary of defense for force management policy, to the Personnel Subcommittee, Senate Armed Services Committee, March 20, 1996.
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee. I welcome the opportunity to appear before you today along with the personnel chiefs of the services to testify on issues relating to manpower, personnel and compensation of our armed forces.
It is truly a privilege to be a member our national security team at this period in our history. It is hard to think of a time when there was so much to be optimistic about in our business.
- We have a high quality, experienced and diverse military force.
- The senior civilian and military leadership have developed an excellent working relationship and enjoy great mutual respect.
- Our commander in chief has used diplomacy and the judicious use of military power to help bring peace to many parts of the world and to raise America's influence and respect to new highs.
- Through careful attention, we have maintained superior readiness in the force.
- We are nearing the conclusion of a remarkably successful drawdown of our forces, which two administrations, the military leadership and the Congress worked so hard to achieve. Our recruiting has remained strong through a difficult period, and signs for the future are hopeful.
- And, Mr. Chairman, it seems everyone has come to know what this committee has known for a long time: that people are the foundation of military readiness, and as a result, we have embarked on an ambitious program to support the quality of life of our service members.
So while I recognize there are difficult problems to be solved, I come to you enthusiastic about where we are today and optimistic about our ability to meet the challenges ahead of us.
I would like to talk to you now about the mission which Secretary [of Defense William J.] Perry has laid out for the Defense Department.
He has set a four-part challenge for the coming year: Keep our forces ready; modernize to maintain technological superiority; improve our ability to conduct joint operations; and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the way the department does business.
The secretary has further divided our readiness mission into three parts:
- Near-term readiness, which requires adequate operation and maintenance funding and a robust level of realistic training;
- Medium-term readiness, which requires a stable force and support for military quality of life; and
- Long-term readiness, which will depend on modernization and innovation in technologies, operations and organization.
In force management policy, our focus is on meeting the challenge of medium-term readiness -- bringing stability to the force and implementing the secretary's ambitious quality of life initiative.
Our downsizing of the active component is now over 90 percent complete. The reductions we are implementing in fiscal year 1996 will essentially complete the drawdown of our active forces. I can report that despite the unprecedented challenge of shrinking an all-volunteer force, we continue to meet or exceed our national security objectives with respect to the size and capabilities of the armed forces. Because the military leaders were skillful in executing this drawdown, our force today is more experienced, of higher quality, more diverse and with the right mix of skills to meet current and future challenges.
As the Department of Defense reaches the end of the drawdown, it has become increasingly important to examine the factors necessary to sustain the quality and commitment of the men and women who will make up the force of the future. The department must ensure it is positioned to provide for the basic needs of service members and military families. This means attending to basics like compensation, housing and health care, as well as providing opportunity for physical, mental and spiritual development. The department has designed quality of life programs to meet future needs, as well as to address present conditions.
For the 1.5 million men and women on active duty, this administration has established and funded an extraordinary initiative, first outlined by Secretary Perry in 1994, to support them and their families. It began with President Clinton and Secretary Perry's determination to spend the $7.7 billion necessary to see that service members get the maximum pay raise allowed by law through the end of the decade -- an unprecedented commitment.
Additionally, Secretary Perry's quality of life initiative committed $2.7 billion over fiscal years 1996-01 to improve housing, expand child care, supplement the income of service members assigned to high-cost areas in the United States, narrow the housing cost gap, improve morale and recreation services and provide other benefits for the members and their families.
Mr. Chairman, our goal in everything we do is to maintain a ready fighting force, support service members and make service in the armed forces an attractive and satisfying career. We are successful when the force is ready and the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in the field and in the fleet feel that we are keeping the promises we made to them when they signed on.
Now I would like to review the specifics of our plans and programs for fiscal year 1997.
Recruiting. A key component of readiness is a steady flow of high-quality recruits. Each service must enlist enough people each year to provide a flow of qualified volunteers from which the seasoned leaders of the future will be selected.
DoD must recruit about 200,000 young people annually to join the full-time, active duty armed forces and approximately 150,000 for the Selected Reserve. We estimate that our goal for nonprior service accessions for the active force will increase by more than 15 percent from current levels over the next three years.
Because recruiting is vital to readiness, the senior panel on recruiting was established in April 1994 to provide oversight of recruiting status at the highest levels of the department. The deputy secretary of defense chairs this panel and convenes it on a regular basis. Membership includes the secretaries of the military departments and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This group is able to deal quickly and effectively with emerging problems.
In the last two years, DoD has done well in attracting high-quality recruits. For example, more than 95 percent of all active duty recruits held a high school diploma, while only about 75 percent of American youth ages 18 to 23 have that credential.
In addition, over 70 percent of new recruits scored above average on the enlistment test, compared to 50 percent of the total youth population. Higher levels of recruit quality serve to reduce attrition while increasing hands-on job performance -- and that means dedication and productivity, which are essential to unit performance and readiness.
There is a clear relationship between the amount of money spent for recruiting and the quality of new recruits. We will continue to monitor trends to ensure we have adequate resources to sustain a diverse, high quality military force that is ready and able to respond to the nation's defense needs.
For the next several years, accession requirements appear to rise faster than programmed resources. Therefore, the department has encouraged the services to reprogram, if necessary, to make sure that we are able to meet recruit quantity and quality goals. Congress boosted recruiting resources by $89 million in FY [fiscal year] 1995 and $31 million in FY 1996. The department is grateful for your continuing, strong support in this vital area.
The department met its FY 1995 recruiting goals while maintaining excellent recruit quality. In fact, 1995 was a better year in terms of quality achievement than any year during the 1980s. In addition to meeting quality goals, we also were successful in our numerical targets, enlisting 175,783 recruits -- 168,010 nonprior service enlistees and 7,773 prior service recruits.
All services exceeded the department's established recruit quality floors of 90 percent for high school diploma graduates and 60 percent scoring above average in aptitude (AFQT [Armed Forces Qualification Test]) categories I-IIIA. Departmentwide, 96 percent of new recruits were high school diploma graduates and 71 percent scored in aptitude categories I-IIIA. The percentage of high quality recruits (those who have both a high school diploma and also score in categories I-IIIA) was 67 percent. Finally, less than 1 percent of new recruits scored in the lowest acceptable category (AFQT Category IV).
Each year since 1975, the Department of Defense has conducted the Youth Attitude Tracking Study, a computer-assisted telephone interview of a nationally representative sample of 10,000 young men and women. This survey provides information on the propensity, attitudes and motivations of young people toward military service.
Enlistment propensity is the percentage of youth who tell us they plan to "definitely" or "probably" enlist over the next few years. Research has shown that such expressed intentions are strong predictors of the overall enlistment behavior of American youth.
Over the past several years, enlistment propensity has declined as the services experienced serious cuts in recruiting resources. In fiscal years 1995-96, recruitment advertising was increased by $89 million and $31 million respectively; that investment, coupled with hard work by our recruiters, is providing results -- 1995 YATS results indicate that the decline in propensity may have abated. For example, in 1995, 28 percent of 16- to 21-year-old men expressed a positive propensity for at least one active duty service -- up from 26 percent in 1994.
Continued investments in recruiting and advertising will be required, however, to ensure that the pool of young men and women interested in the military will be sufficient to meet service personnel requirements for the future.
Recruiter Stress. In recent surveys, recruiters have reported higher levels of stress and dissatisfaction, with 60 percent of recruiters working 60-plus hour[s] weekly, and 20 percent reporting that goals may not be achievable. The recruiters also reported a range of other quality of life concerns. Accordingly, the department asked that the services review recruiting policies and practices to improve recruiter quality of life and reduce pressures that might potentially lead to improprieties.
This joint study of recruiter quality of life issues currently is focusing on a number of potential improvements, for example:
A longstanding concern has been our ability to provide convenient quality health care to recruiters. Toward this end, we have assessed the feasibility of providing TRICARE Prime to recruiters even though they serve in areas outside the normal areas of coverage.
We will demonstrate this concept in the Northwest Region (Region 11) beginning this spring. The test is scheduled to last approximately six months. If successful, it will be expanded to cover all regions.
Other initiatives include providing a health care management program, and providing recruiters with medical debit cards that guarantee payment to health care providers.
To address the child care needs of our recruiting force, we are looking at the feasibility of using child care spaces in other government programs. This includes negotiating with the General Services Administration to obtain spaces for military members at 102 government-owned and leased locations nationwide.
We have found that many recruiters -- particularly those stationed in higher-cost areas -- are experiencing very steep housing costs. Therefore, we are evaluating the feasibility of establishing a leased family housing program that would help those recruiters and others. In response to a requirement set forth in the fiscal year 1996 authorization act, we are working to refine our assessment of this issue. We will provide the committee with our report and recommendations by the end of May.
The Congress recently authorized an increase in special duty assignment pay from $275 to $375 per month. We are now implementing this needed and timely boost in the tangible recognition that we provide to recruiters.
Also, as a follow-up to GAO [General Accounting Office] and defense management reviews, the department initiated a joint-service study to evaluate the viability and cost-effectiveness of alternative concepts for recruiting support, including the consolidation of recruiting support under a single organization. We have evaluated several key functional areas, including recruiting facilities; transportation, supply and equipment; automation and communications; market analysis and research; advertising and promotional support; and quality of life for recruiters and their families.
The study found that many support functions are already performed jointly or on a cooperative basis. The analysis also indicated that potential savings from consolidating the remaining support functions under a single command may reduce their effectiveness. However, the study did identify ways to streamline existing support activities and identified several quality of life initiatives.
Officer Programs. The department continues to balance its officer accessions program by using a mix of sources:
- Reserve Officers' Training Corps (36 percent of accessions) programs provide a varied academic and geographical mix.
- Officer candidate programs (20 percent) provide growth opportunities for many, including the enlisted force.
- The service academies (15 percent) provide an annual influx of officers who couple a deep understanding of the military culture with important technical skills.
- Finally, direct appointments (14 percent) and health professional programs (6 percent) provide officers to the professional branches, with a variety of smaller programs accounting for the remaining 9 percent.
We believe that this mix across commissioning sources provides appropriate balance and diversity with regard to academic disciplines, demographics and military experience.
Drawdown. As I said at the outset, the end strength reductions planned for fiscal year 1996 will essentially complete the drawdown of the active forces.
It is important to reiterate that we have achieved our drawdown objectives while treating people fairly, whether they stayed in service or separated. Even though the number of active duty personnel already has been reduced by more than 650,000, the number of service members who have been involuntarily separated has been quite small. Much of the credit for our success is attributable to the strong support and encouragement of the Congress, which provided the separation incentives and transition programs needed to keep faith with those who serve in America's armed forces.
Our drawdown objectives are straightforward: take care of people -- both those who are leaving and those who are staying -- while maintaining readiness to accomplish the missions that our military forces are called upon to undertake. In accomplishing these objectives, we must carefully evaluate the ways in which today's decisions will affect tomorrow's force. Our ability to achieve these objectives has improved as a direct consequence of the tools we have been provided by the Congress to manage manpower reductions fairly and effectively.
When the current reductions began, there were nearly 2.2 million men and women on active duty. By the end of fiscal year 1996, we will have fewer than 1.5 million; and by the end of the drawdown in fiscal year 1999, we'll have approximately 1.45 million. Overall that's a reduction of about one-third of the active force.
Beginning in fiscal year 1992, the Voluntary Separation Incentive and special Separation Benefit were authorized and funded. Also, more flexible Selective Early Retirement Board authority removed some of the statutory restrictions that limited the number and type of officers who could be considered for early retirement; thus the services could manage the retirement-eligible portion of the force more vigorously. The Temporary Early Retirement Authority, providing for a retirement after 15 years of service, was enacted in fiscal year 1993.
The success of these voluntary separation authorities is demonstrated by an important fact -- about 150,000 career members will have departed voluntarily under these authorities by the end of this fiscal year, and as a direct consequence, there have been fewer than 2,000 involuntary separations. This is an extraordinary accomplishment.
An important accomplishment in our efforts to right-size the armed forces centers on the growth in quality, experience and diversity -- all have increased substantially since the drawdown began. The high quality is demonstrated by the fact that the proportion of active duty enlisted personnel in the above-average aptitude group (AFQT Categories I-IIIA) has increased from 57 percent in 1987, when the drawdown began, to 66 percent in 1995. Those in the lowest acceptable group (AFQT Category IV) dropped from 11 percent in 1987 to fewer than 6 percent in 1995.
At the same time, the active force has become richer in experience, as measured by age and length of service. For example, the average age increased 1.4 years from 27.3 years in 1987 to 28.7 years in 1995, and only 18 percent of our enlisted service members are under age 22 compared to 23 percent in 1987.
Finally, while we had some concerns that the drawdown might have a disproportionate impact on women or minorities, this has not been the case. In fact, the percentage of women in active service has increased from 10 percent to almost 13 percent. Total minority representation in the force has increased from 27 percent to 30 percent. Minority officers showed a like increase -- from 11 percent of the total to 14 percent over the period.
Sharp reductions in end strength, coupled with adjustments in force structure, have caused the services to review their officer requirements in two areas: one, the number of field grade officers and two, officer billets that should be on the joint duty assignment list.
Officer and enlisted promotions remained stable throughout fiscal year 1995 with promotion opportunities and pin-on points relatively consistent with those of previous years. However, it has become apparent that adjustments must be made to the officer field grade strengths authorized in law. There has been a growth in mid-grade requirements that come about as a consequence of fully implementing both the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act and the Defense Acquisition Work Force Improvement Act.
At the same time, there is a falling number of field grade officers as a result of the drawdown (wherein lower overall strength forces causes a decline in the number of field-grade officers.) As a result, a chronic imbalance has emerged.
The services are unable to meet all of those requirements without jeopardizing critical, in-service needs; and that imbalance could persist unless the statutory grade tables are revised. Without such relief, the services will not have enough mid- and senior-grade officers to perform their missions while simultaneously providing high-quality professionals for external requirements, such as joint duty assignments, that also are critical to long-term readiness. Our proposal to enact permanent grade relief will ensure that readiness is maintained today and in the future, and will give the services the flexibility necessary to properly administer their officer career management programs.
The department has made considerable progress over the past 10 years in implementing the joint officer management provisions of the Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 (Goldwater-Nichols). Our most recent focus has centered on development of a better process for managing the joint duty assignment list, ensuring that proper credit is given to officers who have completed a joint duty assignment. The department is close to adopting a process that will do just that. That process calls for a requirements-based assessment of all potential positions to determine which comply with law and policy for inclusion on the JDAL. We estimate that the review can be completed within a year and that it will result in a somewhat smaller, more operationally oriented list that better complies with the intent of Goldwater-Nichols.
We also are continuing work with the Joint Staff and the military departments to reduce the dependence on waivers of joint duty assignment qualifications for promotion to general officer and to make sure that more top officers are assigned to joint duty.
Additionally, considerable effort is being applied to the identification of those positions requiring a joint specialty officer and designation as critical JDAs. This will allow us to more accurately determine which officers should be designated as joint specialty officers. Consistency in this area is also paramount to developing the appropriate inventory of joint specialty officers and ensuring they are properly trained and utilized.
We appreciate the support Congress has given us in the past, and the additional flexibility to manage joint officer programs provided in the fiscal year 1996 defense authorization will help us to improve our management of joint officers, consistent with the intent of Goldwater-Nichols. As we enter new territory with the implementation of the department's first requirements-based JDAL, we will assess the need for additional legislative change. We remain committed to achieving the goals of Goldwater-Nichols.
The department's initiative to remove unnecessary impediments to the assignment of women began in October 1993. Since then, we have opened almost 260,000 positions in combat aviation, aboard combatant naval vessels and finally, within ground units that can be filled by the best qualified person, man or woman. However, with consideration of the advice from the Congress and senior military leaders, we continue to exclude women from assignment to units below the brigade level with direct ground combat missions, such as infantry, artillery and armor battalions.
Today, almost 80 percent of all jobs and over 90 percent of all career fields within the military are open to both men and women. The department recognizes that this is a long-term effort and that there still are some challenges to overcome; however, the policy is resulting in changes which will enhance the already high state of personnel readiness of our smaller armed force.
As the drawdown is nearing its end, our attention has shifted from the selective encouragement of departure to a broadly based focus on retention. The military services have done an extraordinary job in maintaining readiness over the course of the drawdown and will continue to use the tools the Congress has provided to retain the skills needed for current and future readiness. We will work with the Congress to ensure that retention programs, such as re-enlistment bonuses, are funded at appropriate levels.
Sustaining Commitments. As we ask and expect more of our troops, we must ensure their pay is fair and remains competitive. Our FY 1997 budget calls for a military pay raise of 3 percent for FY 1997, and we continued to program for the full raises provided under law through the end of the century.
As you know, cost of living allowances are a critically important component of military retired pay. The modest, lifetime, inflation-protected income provided through COLAs fulfill[s] a promise made to service members and serve[s as] an important recruiting and retention tool.
The action of the Congress in the fiscal year 1996 authorization act to support the effective date for the 1996 COLA, consistent with the president's budget, is greatly appreciated. Resolving the disparity in COLA payments between civilian and military retirees is a high priority.
The secretary has also been working to reduce service members' out-of-pocket housing costs. In fiscal year 1996, he allocated additional funds for the Basic Allowance for Quarters rate increase that accompanies annual pay raises. We greatly appreciate the Congress' interest in this area and the added additional funds you provided. The 3 percent across-the-board pay raise for 1997 will further reduce the out-of-pocket housing costs for our troops.
BAQ helps our members defray the cost of off-base housing. The intent has always been for members living on the local economy to absorb 15 percent of their housing costs, with the remainder offset by payment of BAQ and Variable Housing Allowance. These steps have moved us closer to that target and are directly benefiting more than 700,000 service members and their families.
Within the continental United States, the department implemented a cost-of-living allowance during the last quarter of fiscal year 1995. Secretary Perry stipulated that individuals would receive this new allowance if the reside in areas where the local, nonhousing cost of living exceeds the national average by more than 9 percent.
The amount of the allowance is determined by three things: the area's cost of living in relation to the national average, the military member's spendable income and whether the member has dependents. Approximately 27,000 members are now benefiting from this program.
In the summer of 1994, we established a task force to re-engineer our travel system. The task force found the department's travel system was fragmented, expensive to administer and compliance- (not mission-) oriented. The system was neither customer-oriented nor convenient to use.
In its January 1995 report, the task force recommended that DoD manage travel as mission support and that travelers be treated as honest customers and commanders as responsible managers of the system. The vision is of a seamless, paperless system that meets the needs of travelers, supervisors and process owners; reduces costs; supports mission requirements; and provides superior customer service.
Our reformed system provides one-stop shopping for all travel arrangements through use of a commercial travel office. We have cut red tape by requiring the use of best business practices.
We simplified our travel rules by changing the focus to the customer and mission, having an up-front "should-cost estimate" of travel, giving the supervisor travel approval (one signature) and by streamlining the rules.
Our new system will empower supervisors to obligate travel funds as well as direct the travel. Finally, it will maximize the use of the government travel cards to eliminate the need for cash advances.
Our new travel regulations were issued last fall for use in a one-year test at 29 pilot locations. Departmentwide implementation is projected for January 1997.
We envision a number of long-term compensation improvements and now are analyzing issues and developing appropriate legislative proposals. For example, we hope to move toward a "pay for performance"-oriented military pay system.
While we recognize that increased pay for experience is important, we believe that promotion and its associated responsibilities should be the principal determinant of pay. Appropriate reforms to the pay table can help us to achieve that goal.
We are also working to refine our housing allowances so that they will be able to provide the right amount to every pay grade in each location where our members are stationed. This will help ensure that the allowances are credible and sufficient to provide each and every service member with the ability to obtain housing that meets a minimum adequacy standard.
Key to our long-range vision is the ongoing work of the 8th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation.
The 8th QRMC, which formally began its work in January 1995, gives us an additional opportunity to review every aspect of our compensation program. This QRMC has looked to the future and is identifying desirable components of a military compensation system capable of attracting, retaining and motivating a diverse military force in the 21st century.
All of these adjustments to our compensation program are intended to further stimulate readiness and to generate requisite retention levels while at the same time they must ensure that our pay programs are responsive to present and future needs of the military and those in its service.
The department recently has taken steps to improve the scope and effectiveness of its annual legislative program. In 1994, operating in close coordination with the military departments, the Office of Management and Budget and the Coast Guard, the department fielded a process that twice a year brings together the personnel, programming, budgeting and legislative communities to jointly establish the legislative program and connect it with the defense budget. Prior to adoption, linkage between legislation and budgets was not always strong, and this generated a frequent inability to advance promising initiatives.
As a direct outcome of that greater teamwork within DoD and with OMB, the department was able to propose for FY 1996 -- and the Congress subsequently authorized -- a range of improvements that include improved pays for sailors assigned to sea tours, needed changes to the management of aviation career incentive pay, an expanded incentive pay for air weapons controllers, family separation allowances for geographical bachelors, dislocation allowances for moves associated with base closures, improvements in evacuation allowances and a better program for Servicemen's Group Life Insurance.
Our legislative program for military personnel in FY 1997 builds upon that foundation. We seek the committee's support in achieving improvements in quarters allowances for petty officers (pay grade E-5) who are assigned to sea tours, permitting these NCOs to live off-ship at their home port. The department also is requesting permanent adjustments to officer grade tables, as the Congress has encouraged.
In our accession programs, we ask your support in slightly relaxing age criteria by one to two years for officer programs[;] ... this would permit those participating in certain faith-required sabbaticals to do so without jeopardizing eligibility for ROTC scholarships. We also are seeking flexibility for the military services to grant short extensions for those recruits in the delayed entry program, so that we need not renegotiate contracts when people must delay entry on active duty for good reason.
Funding for all of these changes is provided in the president's budget, and we will work closely with the Congress toward enactment.
Supporting Service Members Deploying to Bosnia. The planning and initiation of Operation Joint Endeavor -- the deployment of 20,000 U.S. troops to the Republic of Bosnia [and] Herzegovina -- has generated three central concerns for the personnel community: ensuring that operational readiness of the troops is maintained; guaranteeing that deployed forces receive all the benefits to which they are entitled; and helping military families left behind.
All deploying personnel in units departing the United States received up to seven days of intensive preparation at one of three bases. Upon arrival in Germany, those troops received up-to-date situation briefings prior to movement to their final locations. Units stationed in Germany underwent similar preparation over several months. Deployed troops also participated in extensive training in the areas of personal health care and medical risks associated with service in Bosnia.
With regard to benefits, deploying personnel continue to receive normal pay and allowances. In addition, deployed troops are receiving imminent danger pay, family separation allowances and other special pays. Thus, up to an additional $352 per month will go to deployed troops. The amount will vary for federal civilian employees supporting the operation.
On Feb. 26, 1996, the administration introduced a tax relief bill for about 25,000 American military personnel serving in Croatia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. This bill was announced by Secretary Perry and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. The service members in these three countries would receive all of the combat zone tax benefits of the Internal Revenue Code, such as an exclusion of military pay for federal income tax purposes, over the period of time designated by the executive order.
Other tax benefits also would be available for these individuals and for deployed service members supporting the mission outside of imminent danger pay areas. These benefits include additional time to file returns upon return from the operation and waivers of interest and penalties on amounts owed. On Feb. 28, the substantive provisions of this proposal were substituted into HR [U.S. House of Representatives] 2778 along with language from a previous DoD proposal. It then received unanimous approval in the House and Senate.
We are providing dynamic support systems for military families of those mobilized and deployed in support of this mission. All military community and family support systems play a role, including those of the United States National Guard and Reserve.
Additionally, civilian communities actively provide support around installations and Guard and Reserve units from which service members deploy. Lessons learned from previous deployments show that service members' and families' No. 1 issue is need for information. Accurate information flow and family support systems help our families cope with daily challenges while service members are deployed.
Just a few examples of support initiatives are:
- Family readiness training is provided throughout the entire deployment cycle to ensure appropriate information and support for each phase including predeployment ongoing, and postdeployment.
- Five hotlines have been established in Germany to provide a point of contact for military families in Baumholder, Bad Kreuznach, Heidelberg, Mannheim and Kaiserslautern.
A Bosnia home page is accessible through the Internet and contains up-to-date information about the role of the U.S. military in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It also has articles on items to send to deployed service members and information on how to send messages to those deployed.
Military family center computer interconnectivity is being established to link family centers worldwide and to connect National Guard and Reserve family support programs to information available on nearby installations.
Our dependent schools overseas are supporting children and youth of service members in Bosnia and Herzegovina by implementing assistance groups with certified counselors, school psychologists and social workers. These assistance groups provide supportive counseling to children to help them cope while their military parents are away from home.
The department's morale, welfare and recreation programs provide numerous programs for families of those deployed and are also providing on-site programs and services to deployed service members. The following are being provided for the deployment in Bosnia: tactical field exchanges, recreation deployment kits, four separate MWR [morale, welfare and recreation] centers, basic sports and game kits, aerobic fitness machines, free/resistance weight sets, exercise bicycles, televisions and VCRs and library kits.
Quality of Life. Secretary Perry has made quality of life one of his top priorities. We know that quality of life is linked to the readiness of our armed forces in three distinct ways.
First, quality of life helps the department recruit good people by offering attractive incentives for education, health care, career advancement, retirement and other benefits. Second, quality of life programs provide assurances to service members that they will have a safety network of assistance programs in times of need, a support system in place to assist their families when they deploy. Finally, when we provide good quality of life for service members and military families, it helps us to retain the people in whom we have invested so much.
Secretary Perry announced his plans to improve military quality of life in November 1994 adding $2.7 billion over six years to fund increases in allowances, better barracks and family housing and an upgraded community environment. Secretary Perry recognized that the nature of our mission was rapidly changing, we were reducing the size of our force, installations were closing or being realigned and we were deploying differently than in the past.
The department's senior military leadership had raised concerns about personnel tempo, compensation, health care, housing and community support activities. Service senior enlisted advisors, installation and unit leaders, and service members and families throughout the department mirrored these concerns. It was evident that we could not continue business as usual without doing something to address these concerns.
Secretary Perry also took steps to see that the funds available are used to the best possible benefit of the service members and the forces as a whole.
The secretary established a quality of life task force of outside experts to provide recommendations for improving housing and the delivery of community and family services and to provide options for reducing the time service members spend away from home for training and mission requirements.
At the same time, he chartered an internal quality of life executive committee to support and implement task force recommendations. This committee has surfaced a number of low-cost, high payoff initiatives to improve quality of life within the military community. We have implemented 18 of these improvements over the past year, which range from developing program goals and measures to installing phones and computer access in barracks rooms.
We are now embarking on initiatives emerging from this process. We have been working with each of the services to establish priorities based on our review. Quality of life priorities remain fairly consistent among services: compensation and benefits, safe and affordable housing, quality health care, balanced optempo [operations tempo]/perstempo [personnel tempo], community and family support, retirement benefits and educational opportunities. These are not listed in order of priority, as they all work in tandem to ensure quality of life within military communities.
The department has long recognized the importance of an appropriate level of compensation in sustaining a robust quality of life program. The military compensation package is made up of both pay and nonpay benefits -- the components of a standard living.
The quality of life initiative addressed three elements of compensation. First, the administration funded the maximum pay raise for military personnel authorized by law through FY 1999. This commitment of $7.7 billion reflects the recognition that adequacy of military pay is essential to attract and retain high quality personnel.
A second initiative was improved quarters allowances. Over two-thirds of military families reside in civilian communities. These families receive housing allowances which were intended by Congress to cover 85 percent of their housing costs. The department and Congress have funded an additional 2.8 percent increase in housing allowances for 1996, which will cover more than 80 percent of out-of-pocket costs for the first time since 1985.
Third, the implementation of a continental United States cost of living allowance was funded in the quality of life initiative. The department began compensating the 30,000 military families assigned to areas in the continental United States in which payments for goods and services exceed 109 percent of the national average in July 1995.
Housing. The secretary of defense has placed special emphasis on improving the overall quality of housing for service families. To the extent that the department encourages or directly provides quality housing for both unaccompanied and married service personnel, it will materially improve job performance and satisfaction, improve the retention of quality individuals and, through these means, sustain the high levels of force readiness needed to meet the department's national security missions. Both the Defense Science Board's quality of life task force and the department's own quality of life executive committee have focused on measures to redress longstanding problems in the living conditions of too many service members, both on and off post.
Near-term goals, and in many cases accomplishments, include:
- Development of a range of housing procurement tools that will make the department a more efficient consumer of housing by acting more like a private sector company. These authorities all have the effect of leveraging limited DoD resources in order to accelerate the acquisition, replacement or renovation of bachelor or family housing, both on and off post. They include the ability to enter into partnerships; guarantee loans, occupancy rates and rents; and take advantage of commercial standards in both construction and housing management.
These authorities were provided in the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 1996 and are being implemented on a prototype basis by the services with the assistance of a joint housing revitalization support office.
- Review and elimination of policies and procedures that have tended to impair the effectiveness of the department's housing delivery system. To the extent that these obstacles are statutorily based, the department will pursue legislative relief.
- Examination of additional tools that could help re-engineer the department's housing delivery system in light of high costs, inability to provide affordable, quality housing options on or off post, and the pressing need to solve this problem in the near term within the department's resource limitations.
Approximately one-third of military families live in military family housing. Much of this housing is in desperate need of repair or revitalization. But two-thirds of military families live off post. For many of these families, housing allowances are not in line with commercial housing costs.
This imbalance can force these families to live in inadequate housing. The department has found that housing problems, whether on or off post, have material effect on re-enlistment decisions. Our military family housing budget for FY 1996 contained an increase of over $500 million to address these problems. This sum included $22 million for private sector housing ventures. An additional $20 million for private sector ventures has been included in our FY 1997 budget.
Housing for single military members is as important as for married members. About a half a million single service members live in military quarters. The department wants to replace rundown, cramped buildings with quality residential facilities. To initiate this process, the department has adopted a new construction policy which increases the barracks/dormitory standard living space by over 31 percent, from 90 square feet to 11 square meters of net living area per living/sleeping area room.
The barracks repair, maintenance and construction program budgets were increased in FY 1996 through the secretary's QOL [quality of life] initiative. Congress then enlarged that budget further, for a total increase of $673 million.
In FY 1997, the department will continue to improve its barracks. Its budget request for barracks revitalization, construction and maintenance increases funding by about 20 percent above service requests. This QOL initiative will improve approximately 7,000 additional barracks spaces above the 42,000 spaces previously programmed. Almost $2.5 billion has been programmed from FY 1996 through FY 2001 for this important program.
Community and Family Support Programs. The department provides social service, recreational and education programs wherever military families are stationed. These programs mirror those found in civilian communities, while being tailored to unique challenges associated with the more mobile military lifestyle.
The department is taking two new steps in relation to community and family support programs. First, we have adopted goals and measures in 24 community and family support program areas that will provide a road map for quality of life improvements within the department. We have also taken action to improve the capability of tracking funds and improving consistency and accountability in programs and budgets.
Second, we are exploring efficiencies through partnerships with local communities and outsourcing programs and services where it makes sense.
These two steps will move us toward greater equity across installations and services and ensure that our programs are driven by the needs of our customers.
Additionally, we have established seven major priorities for community and family support programs:
- Institute the secretary's community QOL agenda: implement program goals and measures; itrack QOL funds; collect program data;
- Secure the future of the resale system: reconfigure resale boards; implement cooperative efforts; study resale delivery models;
- Promote a departmentwide MWR agenda: appropriately fund MWR through the implementation of the DoD MWR strategic plan; improve accountability, equity and DoD funding standards; pursue a fitness initiative to improve facilities and programs;
- Implement distance learning and improving adult education opportunities: Connect service members to college and university distance learning opportunities; establish minimum standards for tuition assistance;
- Develop blueprints for new delivery systems for community and family support programs: explore privatization and outsourcing, where appropriate and cost-effective; study regionalization of community services;
- Provide a model school system: continue to embrace the National Education Goals 2000; integrate the president's educational technology initiative to improve staff and student performance at all department dependent schools; and
- Pursue a performance-based operation for the defense commissary system in line with the vice president's reinvention's next steps: governing in a balanced budget world initiatives.
Child Development. Child care continues to be a critical quality of life program that serves the needs of the increasing portion of service members with young children. The DoD child care program is by far the largest and one of the most successful child development systems in the world.
Over 65 percent of military spouses are in the labor force, and many need access to reliable child care. During March of 1995, the department reassessed the need for child care and documented that military families had some 299,000 children ages birth through 12 who need some kind of child care.
The department is currently meeting about 52 percent of this need with military child development programs. There are at present 155,391 child care spaces at 346 locations. These include 644 child development centers, 9,981 family child care homes, and school-aged care located in youth facilities, schools and other community support facilities.
The secretary added $38.1 million in fiscal years 95, 96 and in the fiscal year 97 budget to move child care availability toward the department's short-term goal of an average of 65 percent of the departmentwide demand. We will accomplish this by increasing child care spaces by about 39,000 additional children, with the bulk of these spaces in the school-aged care programs.
Our ultimate goal is to provide 80 percent of the departmentwide child care demand in the future. Fiscal year 1997 funding requests continue these initiatives.
We are also conducting two evaluation tests regarding outsourcing child care, recognizing that the department is nearing maximum potential to meet child care needs on base. The first of these tests involves contracting with civilian child care centers in five locations to "buy down" the cost of spaces for military families to make costs comparable to on-installation care. The second test focuses on outsourcing the management of a defense-owned child care facility in Dayton, Ohio.
The Family Advocacy Program is now in its 11th year. It has been quite successful in helping prevent child and spouse abuse. FAP's prevention efforts contribute to making the rate of substantiated child abuse in military families less than half of the civilian rate. FAP has also been successful in protecting victims when child or spouse abuse has occurred and in treating both the victims and the abusers.
During fiscal year 1997, FAP will increase its emphasis on prevention through greater outreach to families residing off installations, especially to junior enlisted personnel who are first-time parents. Also in fiscal year 1997, FAP programs will emphasize improved prevention and intervention efforts regarding spouse abuse. This emphasis includes participation in the department's campaign that implements the president's directive to reduce spouse abuse in the civilian work force.
Finally, FAP programs will continue to improve program quality and fully implement a new program area, providing advocacy services to victims of child and spouse abuse.
Model Communities (youth initiative). Installation commanders and parents identified increases in youth violence and gang activity on installations as major concerns. They said that a lack of programs to address youth issues contributed to this increase.
As a result, DoD established a Model Communities Incentive Award Program to encourage installations worldwide to take responsibility for the problems of youth and their families, and to provide youth with positive alternatives and a sense of connection in their communities. Each participating installation submitted proposals that defined their local needs, described a plan to meet those needs and indicated how they will manage their solutions.
The 20 winning installations will serve as test projects for new ideas and as models for military bases around the world. Installations around the world, representing all four services, submitted proposals. DoD selected the 20 winning installations from 134 submissions.
The winners received up to $200,000 per year for a three-year period. Over the three years, DoD's investment in developing these innovative youth programs will be $6.4 million.
Year-end reports indicate that the model communities projects make positive impacts in the lives of our youth and families. Later this year, we plan to distribute a synopsis of all the 134 proposals received DoD-wide and a progress report on those currently being funded.
The department's 291 family centers continue to be the focal point for our basic social services and support networks for the military community. Family centers provide service members and military families with a host of education, prevention and social programs. These centers also provide information that helps service and family members navigate the unique challenges of military life and quickly establish ties in each community in which they live.
Core family center programs include information and referral, deployment support, crisis response, relocation assistance, personal financial management, family life education, volunteer programs, and employment counseling and assistance for service members' spouses. Centers provide other special emphasis programs if they are not offered elsewhere on the installations. These can range from counseling programs, transition assistance and programs for exceptional family members -- those with special emotional, physical or educational challenges or needs.
Special emphasis will be placed in fiscal year 1997 on personal financial health and spouse employment assistance. Spouse employment is focusing on helping job seekers find civilian sector jobs as the federal sector opportunities normally sought by military spouses dwindle. We have also initiated a readiness outcome measures study to evaluate our core programs.
The defense appropriations act for fiscal year 1996 directed the department to report on phasing out our relocation and transition assistance programs and provide what, if any, residual funding is required. This report is being prepared. We understand that certain of the special incentive programs were aimed at helping the department bridge the impact of reducing the force. We do not, however, view the basic functions of either of these programs as temporary.
The relocation program provides education and assistance to the more than one-third of our force that relocates each year. Many of these members and families are facing their first move and have limited experience in how to plan for and accomplish the move without undergoing significant stress and incurring unnecessary financial costs.
At the direction of Congress, we established this program and set up an automated Standard Installation Topic Exchange Service, which provides service members with information about their new community. Such information is essential in making informed decisions during the move process.
This automated information is available through family centers at every military installation. The relocation assistance program has been and continues to be integral to our family center network and provides benefits far beyond its annual $18 million cost. As long as we continue to move service members and their families to new communities, often far from their family networks, we believe it essential to provide the services offered through our relocation assistance program.
Equally important, transition assistance to the almost 300,000 service members who leave the military each year remains a priority. These veterans represent a very talented resource pool for America, but many have never sought a job in the civilian community and have no idea where to begin. Many are serving at installations outside the United States and have no way or opportunity to find jobs in the United States until they are discharged from the service.
These issues, coupled with trying to translate skills performed in the military to civilian job skills, make transition assistance a vital service for departing personnel. We have formed tremendous partnerships with Departments of Labor and Veterans Affairs, federal and state employment service agencies, corporations and businesses in communities throughout the United States.
These partnerships are helping our veterans find jobs quickly and smoothly integrate back into the civilian community. Our two automated systems have also proved extremely successful. The Defense Outplacement Referral System is a resume data base referral system linking private sector employers to departing service members and spouses.
In fiscal year 1995, there were over 69,000 personnel registered in DORS and 13,431 employers. The Transition Bulletin Board allows employers to list actual job openings that service members at military installations worldwide can see. In 1995, there were 47,343 job openings and business opportunities listed in this automated system. Statistics we have gathered show that these programs help service members find jobs more quickly, and account for a cost avoidance of $152 million annually that would have to be spent for unemployment compensation.
These facts alone demonstrate that the loss that would be associated with the phase out these important programs. However, we are certain that we can find economies without degrading the value of the services provided through both programs. We are looking at strategies for making these programs more affordable for the future.
The Department of Defense provides morale, welfare and recreation programs in order to help bring some of the benefits of civilian life to our military communities. These programs are the cornerstone of community quality of life, providing for fitness, recreation centers, libraries, sports and athletic programs, youth centers and a variety of other recreational and social activities. MWR programs also include revenue-generating activities such as bowling centers and golf courses, which not only provide recreational opportunities, but generate profits used to improve other community MWR programs.
The department considers MWR critical to mission readiness and productivity. The programs and activities offered at our installations worldwide contribute to physical fitness, esprit de corps, and aid in the recruitment and retention of personnel.
In the course of the last two years, the department has taken action to improve and update MWR programs. We have issued new policy guidance, incorporating requirements for short- and long-range planning, specific service goals and standards and a periodic market analysis to ensure that our programs are customer driven. We have also provided specific metrics to measure funding standards and for nonappropriated fund financial assessment.
Beginning with fiscal year 1996, we increased funding to bring the military services to a more consistent level of appropriated funding for these vital programs. These funds were targeted for improvements in programs in the Marine Corps and the Army. For fiscal year 1997, the Navy has included resources in their budget to improve fitness centers and libraries afloat, an action that will improve quality of life aboard over 350 ships.
Our plans for next year will build on these initiatives. As a result of a finding from the quality of life task force, we will be examining the programs and facilities we provide for physical fitness on our installations and working with the military departments to build action plans to address any shortcomings.
We will continue to promote innovative solutions for program delivery, encourage partnerships, public/private ventures and community agreements when it makes sense. We will also continue to promote cooperative efforts among the military services and exchange programs as another avenue to reduce overhead, increase service and reduce costs. Finally, we will monitor our joint execution of program goals to increase consistency of service for our total force.
Off-duty Voluntary Education Programs. The department has historically spent about $220 million annually to support its very popular off-duty continuing education programs. About one-third of the active force participates in these programs, earning thousands of associate, bachelor's and master's degrees from nationally accredited colleges and universities.
The services provide their members with about $135 million in tuition assistance annually. Typically, courses are offered evenings and weekends at education centers located on military bases around the world. However, service members may take courses off base, on board ships at sea or through correspondence courses and other forms of independent study available via television or computer.
Members are also offered fully funded opportunities to enhance the basic academic skills, earn a high school equivalency diploma or test for college credit. Tests for licensing, certification and college admission are also fully funded.
Current initiatives include connecting all education centers to the Internet and expanding options for service members to take courses and complete degrees using distance education opportunities.
DoD Education Activity. Our DoD Education Activity provides a world-class educational program that prepares students in military communities for success in a dynamic global environment. In fiscal year 1997, we project that we will provide education to some 87,000 students in our DoD Dependents School system overseas and 33,000 through our DoD domestic dependent elementary and secondary schools. Additionally, we have oversight responsibilities and fiscal support of eight special contractual arrangements with local education agencies in five states and Guam, serving an additional 6,000 students.
This past year, we have involved parents, staff and the military services in the development of an aggressive strategic plan to support continued quality and integrate the president's national education goals into our system.
Additionally, we have integrated a technology initiative aimed at improving staff and student performance into the 21st century. This initiative fully supports the president's educational technology initiative. This initiative moves toward providing greater access to modern computers in classrooms, connects schools to the information superhighway, develops effective subject area curriculum software and develops teacher competence to help students use and learn through technology. We have included $7.5 million in our budget for these technology initiatives.
While we have been undergoing a tremendous amount of turbulence within our system over the past two years, we have successfully minimized any adverse affects on children's education. Students at our schools consistently scored eight to 19 percentile points above the national average in all comprehensive test of basic skills and American college test areas over the past school year.
We project that we will complete most of our school closures and realignments in Europe and the Pacific by the end of this year. We now have 177 schools overseas, 92 less than we had when we began our drawdown.
Our budget request for fiscal year 1997 remains consistent with last year's request.
Commissaries and Exchanges. The commissary system is an important element of the military nonpay compensation package and a critical aspect of quality of life. Secretary Perry remains firm that this benefit must not be eroded.
Commissaries enhance income through a 20-25 percent savings on purchases of food and household items for the military member and family. The importance of commissaries for those stationed overseas cannot be understated -- they are often the only source of American products and in isolated or remote areas, the only convenient source of groceries.
We continue to work toward greater efficiencies in these stores. The Defense Commissary Agency recently received the Hammer Award [created by Vice President Al Gore to recognize government agencies for their efforts in streamlining operations] for the accomplishments of the agency's operation support center, specifically their new system for ordering and receiving products for overseas stores, and for two other business practices -- resale ordering agreement and delivering ticket invoicing. These innovations greatly improve overseas order/ship time, dramatically reduce the number of contracts the agency has with vendors and boosts timely payments.
As of October 1995, there were 201 commissaries in the United States and 111 overseas.
Exchanges support service members and military families by providing goods and services to them at affordable prices. The exchanges also generate revenues that fund recreational activities designed to promote readiness, individual and community fitness, esprit de corps and the personal development of those who serve their country.
During the past year, the department took a hard look at its policies that describe where and when we can operate exchanges and commissaries. We did this in an attempt to balance our quality of life initiatives with the hard realities of base closures and realignments.
We discovered that in many instances, active duty personnel were remaining on or in the immediate vicinity of many of these installations. This past year, we began a new way of doing business and rewrote department policy to maintain certain exchange operations and commissaries on those installations where a significant number of active duty service members remained.
Recognizing, too, that members of the reserve component could lose their exchange or commissary as installations closed or realigned, we opened up a new BXmart at Homestead Air Force Reserve base in Florida.
The BXmart at Naval Air Station, Fort Worth, Texas, formerly Carswell Air Force Base, completed its second year of operation. Although the BXmart was not financially viable as a stand-alone operation, overall exchange operations were marginally profitable. Because of the marginal profitability of the Fort Worth test, we are not yet able to endorse this as future policy of the department. We will continue to evaluate our test sites for overall profitability and the overall impact on the MWR dividends. We will establish future test BXmarts only where programs indicate a profitable outcome.
Civilian Personnel. Our civilian work force is a crucial link in our national defense. The Department of Defense employs more than 800,000 civilians around the world and even with the drawdown, we remain by far the largest federal employer.
Regular employment in the Department of Defense has fallen from 1.117 million at the end of fiscal year 1989 to 837,000 in November 1995. This cut represents 25 percent of our work force.
We continue to work hard to manage the drawdown of our civilian work force.
Through creative use of our transition programs we have been able to hold our involuntary separations, that is, separations by reductions in force, to less than 9 percent. To achieve this remarkable rate, we have applied a variety of transition assistance programs. The DoD Priority Placement Program has placed 133,000 workers in its 30-year history and continues to find jobs for more than 900 surplus employees per month. We are making good use of the voluntary early retirement authority to allow employees to retire under reduced age and service requirements.
The Defense Outplacement Referral System has been available since FY 1992. Under this system, we have referred about 18,000 employees to potential private sector employers. We are also using voluntary separation incentive payments or buyouts. These are lump sum payments of up to $25,000 to encourage employees in surplus occupations to resign or retire. Roughly 78,000 employees have left with VSIPs, avoiding a like number of layoffs. Another new program is the nonfederal hiring incentive. Effective Aug. 25, 1995, this program offers nonfederal employers up to $10,000 to retrain or relocate a DoD employee and keep the person employed for at least a year.
Despite the drawdown, we have been able to maintain work force balance. The cuts have affected men and women in equal proportions. Female employees comprise 37 percent of the work force, the same proportion they did in September 1989. And we have made progress in our higher-graded positions. In grades GS-13 through SES [Senior Executive Service], women have increased their representation from 14 to 19 percent. Minority group members have increased from 10 to 12 percent of the work force.
We have managed our reductions by being true to our goals (reducing staff, avoiding involuntary separations, assisting employees and achieving balance). We delegate authority to the lowest possible levels and use our transition tools effectively. At the same time, we pay constant attention to work force demographics and the results of downsizing while holding on to our mission and readiness requirements.
Even though we are working hard to make the downsizing go smoothly and humanely, we also are concerned about the people and programs that remain. We are streamlining and automating our personnel management systems to improve the service we provide to our managers and employees, increase efficiency and reduce costs.
We are developing a standard DoD system to allow immediate access to current civilian personnel data, provide on-line update of employee data, reduce training and operational costs and improve productivity. To accelerate the process, we have selected a commercial off-the-shelf software package as a basis for the modern data system. For interim improvement, we have completed or nearly completed 13 projects to automate functions that account for at least half of the standard civilian personnel office workload. Our target system should be deployed in fiscal year 1998.
To improve productivity and customer service while reducing costs, the military departments and defense agencies are pulling functions from their installation civilian personnel offices into regional service centers. We will have 23 regional centers to perform those functions that can be performed more efficiently and effectively from a central operation.
The Army has opened three regional centers and is developing seven more sites. The Navy has opened two centers with six additional sites planned. The Air Force will establish a single center. Four centers serving the defense agencies will be operated by the Washington Headquarters Service, the Defense Mapping Agency, the Defense Finance and Accounting Service and the Defense Logistics Agency. All the centers will be operational by the end of fiscal year 1998.
To help support the field liaison offices we established last year at Department of Labor offices, we have developed and deployed a comprehensive tracking and auditing system. This system facilitates the flow of information to all of our DoD installations and helps us ensure that only valid claims are paid. The system has already been installed in 67 personnel offices, and 150 more offices will receive the system by the end of this year. Combined with home visits and case reviews, this system saved the department $5.5 million in fiscal year 1995. This represents a potential lifetime savings of $110 million.
The Civilian Personnel Policy and Civilian Personnel Management Service staffs have undertaken several initiatives to improve labor relations and partnerships within the department. We had a major role in developing the National Partnership Council handbook and establishing an NPC partnership award. The Defense Partnership Council continues to be an effective vehicle for providing assistance to labor and management teams.
Extensive savings have been achieved through partnership. For example, at the San Antonio [Texas] Air Logistics Center, an organization that had a history of labor-management problems, partnership initiatives resulted in an 89 percent decrease in unfair labor practice filings from 1992 to 1995. Union grievances fell by 82 percent, and employee grievances fell by 85 percent. At Rock Island [Ill.], a negotiated alternate work schedule cut overtime costs by $250,000 in 1995. At the Trident Refit Facility, the result of no formal ULPs in a year-and-a-half no arbitrations in two years has been a cost avoidance of $300,000.
Following extensive discussions and coordination within the Department of Defense and with the Department of State and our embassy in Lisbon, we were successful in framing an acceptable solution to an impasse that was straining U.S.-Portuguese relations and our operations at Lajes Air Base in the Azores. This settlement removed the remaining barrier to U.S.-Portugal execution of a new charter on cooperation, a revised technical agreement and the understanding on labor.
When the complaints investigation offices of the military departments were consolidated into a single defensewide Office of Complaints Investigations in fiscal year 1994, we inherited 33 site offices around the world. We have cut the number of sites to 25 by the end of fiscal year 1995 and plan further reductions.
Even with these consolidations and reductions in staff, the OCI staff has managed to reduce the case backlog of 1,800 cases and now completes 90 percent of the cases in 120 days as opposed to the 180-day requirement. Through the use of alternative dispute resolution efforts (mediation and fact-finding) we saved the department approximately $8 million in case processing costs in FY 1995. OCI investigators completed over 4,000 cases during the fiscal year, of which 20 percent were resolved through the use of ADR [alternative dispute resolution].
Equal opportunity. Effective equal opportunity policies provide the all-volunteer force access to the widest possible pool of qualified men and women, allow the military to train and assign people according to the needs of the service and guarantee service men and women that they will be judged by their performance and will be protected from discrimination and harassment. These conditions are the context in which the department's equal opportunity policies and programs are developed and implemented.
In a March 3, 1994, memorandum to all DoD components, Secretary Perry reiterated his unequivocal commitment to equal opportunity. The secretary said, "Equal opportunity is not just the right thing to do, it is also a military and economical necessity. Most importantly, all employees of this department have a right to carry out their jobs without discrimination or harassment. ... Therefore, I will not tolerate discrimination or harassment of or by any Department of Defense employee."
The secretary recognizes that discrimination and sexual harassment jeopardize organizational readiness by weakening interpersonal bonds, eroding unit cohesion and threatening good order and discipline. By comprehensively addressing human relations issues and by expeditiously investigating and resolving discrimination complaints, the department supports readiness. Following the secretary's lead, senior DoD civilian officials and military leaders strive to ensure that every individual in the department, military or civilian, is free to contribute to his or her fullest potential in an atmosphere of respect and dignity.
In May 1995, the department transmitted to the Congress the report of the Defense Equal Opportunity Council Task Force on Discrimination and Sexual Harassment as directed by Section 532 of Public Law 103-337. The report contained 48 recommendations for improvements in the military services' discrimination and harassment prevention programs, including the establishment of departmentwide standards for discrimination complaints processing. The report's 48 recommendations were put in place with the issuance of DoD Directive 1350.2, "Department of Defense Military Equal Opportunity Program," in August 1995.
Our equal opportunity efforts contribute to building a military force which reflects the diversity of our nation. Its composition is a resounding statement about what is possible in a multiracial, multiethnic society. Most nations are multiracial, and many of them are riven along lines of race, religion or language. When the U.S. military is deployed, whether for warfighting or peacekeeping, it displays the possibility of overcoming those sources of division. It shows that diversity can be a source of strength.
The overview of the department's personnel programs that I have set out in this statement presents a complex array of initiatives and activities. Our objective, by contrast, remains straightforward -- meeting the challenge of medium-term readiness by bringing stability to the force and implementing Secretary Perry's ambitious quality of life initiative.
At this point I believe we are in good shape. We have met the unprecedented challenge of downsizing an all-volunteer force successfully. Today's armed forces are more experienced, of higher quality and more diverse than ever before.
Our recruitment programs -- the lifeblood of a quality force -- have been successful in terms of meeting numerical goals and in terms of quality. There are challenges ahead, but I am confident that with the continuing support of the Congress and this committee, we can continue to achieve our readiness objectives and provide the men and women in uniform who serve this nation and their families the quality of life they so richly deserve.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear before this committee today. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via the World Wide Web at http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/index.html.