United States General Accounting Office GAO Report to the Senate and House Committees on Armed Services September 2003 MILITARY RECRUITING DOD Needs to Establish Objectives and Measures to Better Evaluate Advertising's Effectiveness GAO-03-1005 September 2003 MILITARY RECRUITING DOD Needs to Establish Objectives and Highlights of GAO-03-1005, a report to the Measures to Better Evaluate Advertising's Senate and House Committees on Armed Services Effectiveness The Department of Defense (DOD) Since the late 1990s, DOD has revamped its recruiting advertising programs must convince more than 200,000 and nearly doubled the funding for recruiting advertising. The military people each year to join the services have revised many of their advertising campaigns and focused on military. To assist in recruiting, the complementing traditional advertising, such as by increasing the use of the military services advertise on Internet, and participating in more promotional activities, such as sports car television, on radio, and in print and participate in other racing events. DOD’s total advertising funding increased 98 percent in promotional activities. In the late constant dollars from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2003—from $299 1990s, some of the services missed million to $592 million. The advertising cost per enlisted recruit has nearly their overall recruiting goals. In tripled and is now almost $1,900. The military services agree that the revised response, DOD added recruiting strategies and increased investments have energized their advertising resources by increasing its campaigns and better positioned them to recruit in an increasingly advertising, number of recruiters, competitive marketplace. Today, almost all of the active and reserve and financial incentives. By fiscal components are meeting their overall recruiting goals in terms of the quality year 2003, DOD’s total recruiting and quantity of new recruits. budget was approaching $4 billion annually. DOD does not have clear program objectives and adequate outcome At the request of Congress, GAO measures to evaluate the effectiveness of its advertising as part of its overall determined the changes in DOD’s recruiting effort. Thus, DOD cannot show that its increased advertising advertising programs and funding efforts have been a key reason for its overall recruiting success. Isolating the trends since the late 1990s and impact of advertising on recruiting efforts is inherently difficult because assessed the adequacy of measures joining the military is a profound life decision. Moreover, DOD has not used by DOD to evaluate the consistently tracked key information, such as public awareness of military effectiveness of its advertising. recruiting advertising and the willingness of young adults to join the military. Such data could be used to help evaluate the effectiveness of advertising. Without sufficient information on advertising’s effectiveness, DOD cannot GAO recommends that DOD set determine the return on its advertising funding or make fact-based choices clear, measurable advertising on how its overall recruiting investments should be allocated. objectives; develop outcome measures to evaluate advertising DOD’s Total Recruiting Advertising Funding for Fiscal Years 1998 to 2003 programs’ performance; and use these measures to monitor advertising’s performance and make choices on recruiting investments. In its comments on this report, DOD concurred with the recommendations and stated that it will develop a DOD advertising strategic framework to provide overall direction. www.gao.gov/cgi-bin/getrpt?GAO-03-1005. To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on the link above. For more information, contact Derek B. a In-year estimate. Stewart at (202) 512-5559 or email@example.com. Contents Letter 1 Results in Brief 2 Background 4 DOD Has Revised Advertising Programs and Increased Funding 6 DOD Does Not Adequately Measure Advertising’s Effectiveness 14 Conclusions 20 Recommendations for Executive Action 21 Agency Comments and Our Evaluation 22 Appendix I Scope and Methodology 24 Appendix II Comments from the Department of Defense 26 Related GAO Products 31 Tables Table 1: DOD’s Advertising Campaign Slogans, Program Descriptions, and Examples of Key Changes 7 Table 2: Summary of DOD’s Recruiting Advertising Funding 14 Figures Figure 1: Army-Sponsored Sports Racing Car 9 Figure 2: Total DOD Recruiting Advertising Funding for Fiscal Years 1998 to 2003 10 Figure 3: Total Recruiting Investment per Enlisted Recruit for Fiscal Years 1990 to 2003 12 Figure 4: The Use of Advertising throughout the Recruiting Process 18 Page i GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Abbreviations DOD Department of Defense GAO General Accounting Office GPRA Government Performance and Results Act This is a work of the U.S. government and is not subject to copyright protection in the United States. It may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety without further permission from GAO. However, because this work may contain copyrighted images or other material, permission from the copyright holder may be necessary if you wish to reproduce this material separately. Page ii GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting United States General Accounting Office Washington, DC 20548 September 19, 2003 The Honorable John W. Warner Chairman The Honorable Carl Levin Ranking Minority Member Committee on Armed Services United States Senate The Honorable Duncan L. Hunter Chairman The Honorable Ike Skelton Ranking Minority Member Committee on Armed Services House of Representatives To meet its human capital needs, the Department of Defense (DOD) must convince about 200,000 people each year—the majority of them recent high school graduates—to join the military. To assist in this recruiting effort, the military services advertise on television, on radio, in print, and on the Internet; sponsor sports teams; and participate in other promotional activities. Such advertising is designed primarily to raise awareness of the military as a career option and help recruiters meet their goals for new recruits. During the exceptionally strong U.S. economy of the late 1990s, most of the services missed their overall recruiting goals. In response, DOD put additional resources into recruiting by increasing advertising, the number of recruiters, and various incentives, such as enlistment bonuses. By fiscal year 2003, DOD’s total recruiting budget was approaching $4 billion annually. The Senate Committee on Armed Services directed that we examine DOD’s growing investments in military recruitment advertising.1 As agreed with your committees, the objectives of this report were to (1) determine the changes in DOD’s advertising programs and funding trends since the late 1990s and (2) assess the adequacy of the measures used by DOD to evaluate the effectiveness of its advertising. In March 2003, we provided your committees with an interim briefing that described the trends in 1 S. Rep. 107-151, at 300 (2002). Page 1 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting advertising funding requests since fiscal year 2000 and DOD’s justifications for those requests. This report updates the information discussed in the interim briefing and provides our analysis of the other issues in your request. To determine the changes in DOD’s advertising programs and funding trends since the late 1990s, we reviewed the changes in the services’ advertising programs, DOD’s and the services’ congressional justification books, and DOD funding data. To assess the adequacy of DOD’s outcome measures, we used established management guidance provided in the Government Performance and Results Act2 (GPRA) and in Office of Management and Budget guidance. Our scope included DOD’s active duty services, reserve components, and joint advertising program. We conducted our review from October 2002 through July 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. (See appendix I for more detailed information on our scope and methodology.) Since the late 1990s, DOD has revamped its recruiting advertising Results in Brief programs and nearly doubled the funding devoted to recruiting advertising. The active duty military services, except for the Marine Corps, substantially revised their advertising campaigns and selected new advertising agencies as contractors. Long-time and well-recognized advertising slogans such as the Army’s “Be All You Can Be” were abandoned in favor of campaigns designed to better appeal to today’s young adults. The military services agree that these revised strategies and increased investments have energized their advertising campaigns and better positioned them to recruit young adults in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Today, almost all of the active and reserve components report that they are meeting their overall recruiting goals, both in terms of the quality and quantity of recruits. To better reach today’s young adults, the services have focused on complementing traditional advertising by increasing funding for events marketing, public relations, and the Internet. The expenditures for paid television, which remains the single largest advertising cost, and other national media have declined as a percentage of total advertising funding. DOD’s total advertising funding increased 98 percent from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2003—from $299 million to $592 million.3 Today, DOD is 2 Pub. L. No. 103-62, Aug. 3, 1993. 3 All dollars are in constant fiscal year 2003 dollars unless otherwise indicated. Page 2 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting spending $1,900 in advertising per enlisted recruit, which is almost three times as much as it did in fiscal year 1990. The increases in funding have not been evenly distributed across DOD’s advertising programs. The size of each service’s advertising programs varies greatly. The Army has the largest advertising programs; its active and reserve components account for nearly half of the total advertising funding. DOD does not have adequate outcome measures to evaluate the effectiveness of its advertising as part of its overall recruiting effort. Thus, DOD cannot show that its increased advertising efforts have been a key reason for its overall recruiting success. Evaluating advertising’s effectiveness requires that DOD establish clear program objectives and outcome measures. DOD has not established such objectives and outcome measures for two reasons. First, isolating the impact of advertising on recruiting efforts is inherently difficult because joining the military is a profound life decision influenced by many factors, including the opportunities available in college or in the job market. Second, even though DOD has developed recruiting goals to ensure that it meets its human capital needs, these goals do not directly relate to or measure the effectiveness of advertising. Owing to the absence of program objectives and outcome measures, DOD has not consistently tracked key information, such as public awareness of military recruiting advertising and changes in the willingness of young adults to join the military. Such information could be used to help evaluate the effectiveness of advertising. In our 2000 report, we recommended that DOD and the services assess the relative success of their recruiting strategies, including how the services can create the most cost-effective mix of recruiters, enlistment bonuses, college incentives, advertising, and other recruiting tools.4 Although DOD acknowledges the need for such information, current DOD guidance does not require the measurement of outcomes or reports on advertising’s effectiveness. Without sufficient information on advertising’s effectiveness, DOD cannot determine the return on its advertising funding or make fact-based choices on how its overall recruiting investments should be allocated. We are making recommendations to DOD to improve its guidance to better evaluate recruiting advertising’s effectiveness. We are recommending that 4 U.S. General Accounting Office, Military Personnel: Services Need to Assess Efforts to Meet Recruiting Goals and Cut Attrition, GAO/NSIAD-00-146 (Washington, D.C.: June 23, 2000). Page 3 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting DOD set clear, measurable advertising objectives for its advertising programs and develop outcome measures to evaluate the performance of its advertising programs. We are also recommending that DOD use these outcome measures to monitor its advertising programs’ performance and make fact-based choices about advertising funding as part of the overall recruiting investment. In commenting on a draft of this report, DOD concurred with all of our recommendations. DOD stated in its comments that it will implement the recommendations by developing a DOD advertising strategic framework to provide overall direction for its advertising programs and by conducting research initiatives intended to advance the measurement of the performance of recruiting and advertising. Most of the military services’ active and reserve components faced Background recruiting difficulties during the strong economic climate of the late 1990s. As a result, the services stepped up their recruiting to ensure that they would have enough recruits to fill their ranks. Recruiting efforts focus on three initiatives. First, a “sales force” of more than 15,000 recruiters, who are mostly located in the United States, recruit from the local population. Second, these recruiters have financial and other incentives that they can use to convince young adults to consider a military career. Such incentives include enlistment bonuses and college benefits. Finally, the services use advertising to raise the public’s awareness of the military and help the sales force of recruiters reach the target recruiting population and generate potential leads for recruiters. This advertising can include television and radio commercials, Internet and printed advertisements, and special events. DOD believes that advertising is increasingly critical to its recruiting effort because convincing young adults to join the military is becoming more difficult. In 2001, over 70 percent of polled young adults said that they probably or definitely would not join the military, compared with 57 percent in 1976.5 The number of veterans is declining, which means that fewer young adults have influencers—a relative, coach, or teacher—who have past military experience. Compounding these difficulties, 5 J.G. Bachman, L.D. Johnston, and P.M. O’Malley, Monitoring the Future: Questionnaire Responses from the Nation’s High School Seniors (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Institute for Social Research, 2001). Page 4 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting proportionally more high school graduates are attending college. Finally, the perception that service in the military is arduous—and possibly dangerous—can inhibit recruiting efforts. DOD believes that these factors together make the military an increasingly harder sell as a career choice and life-style option for young adults. The Office of the Secretary of Defense is responsible for establishing policy and providing oversight for the military recruiting and advertising programs of the active and reserve components. Within the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Under Secretary for Personnel and Readiness is responsible for developing, reviewing, and analyzing recruiting policy, plans, and resource levels. The office provides policy oversight for advertising programs and coordinates them through the Joint Marketing and Advertising Committee. DOD’s strategic plan for military personnel human resources emphasizes the need to recruit, motivate, and retain adequate and diverse numbers of quality recruits.6 DOD’s recruiting and advertising programs are not centrally managed. All of the active components and some of the reserve components manage their separate advertising programs and work closely with their own contracted advertising agencies.7 DOD and the services believe that this decentralized approach better differentiates between the service “brands” (i.e., Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines). The Joint Advertising, Market Research, and Studies program, which is funded separately by DOD, exists to address common DOD requirements, such as conducting market research and obtaining and distributing lists of potential leads. The joint program has developed a DOD-wide advertising campaign to target the adult influencers of potential recruits, but this program had not been fully implemented at the time of our review. 6 Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Military Personnel Human Resources Strategic Plan (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 2002). 7 The Navy and Naval Reserve have separate advertising programs; however, their recruiting programs were recently reorganized under one commander. Page 5 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting After most of the services experienced recruiting shortfalls in the late DOD Has Revised 1990s, DOD reviewed its advertising programs and identified opportunities Advertising Programs for improvement. The services, except the Marine Corps, substantially revised their advertising campaigns and slogans and contracted with new and Increased advertising agencies. The services told us that their revised campaigns Funding place them in a better position to recruit today’s young adults. Currently, almost all of the services and reserve components are achieving their recruiting goals, and advertising funding has almost doubled since fiscal year 1998. The increases in funding have not been used to buy more national media, such as television commercials. Rather, the funding increases are being directed to other types of advertising, such as special events marketing and the Internet, that are intended to better reach today’s young adults. Advertising funding for DOD increased from $299 million in fiscal year 1998 to $592 million in fiscal year 2003, an increase of 98 percent.8 Military Services Have Recruiting shortfalls in the late 1990s led to an examination and revision of Revised Their Advertising DOD’s advertising programs. The Army, Navy, and Air Force missed their Campaigns to Better recruiting quantity goals, while some of the reserve components fell short of both their quantity and quality goals.9 Following these recruiting Attract Today’s Young shortfalls, Congress asked the Secretary of Defense to review DOD’s Adults advertising programs and make recommendations for improvements.10 DOD has revamped its advertising programs. The active-duty services, except for the Marine Corps, substantially revised their advertising campaigns and selected new advertising agencies as their contractors. They produced new advertising strategies and campaigns, complete with new slogans and revised television, print, and radio advertisements, along with new brand images defined by distinct logos, colors, and music. The services, in conjunction with their advertising agencies, conducted new 8 These amounts are in fiscal year 2003 constant dollars using DOD’s Operation and Maintenance funding deflators. In nominal dollars, DOD’s advertising funding increased from $271 million in fiscal year 1998 to $592 million in fiscal year 2003—an increase of 118 percent. 9 “Quantity” is the total number of recruits needed in a given fiscal year. “Quality” is the achievement of high school diplomas and adequate scores on the Armed Forces Qualification Test. 10 Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy), A New Focus for Military Advertising and Market Research (Washington, D.C.: March 2000) and Rand Corporation, A Report on the Audit of the Armed Services Recruitment Advertising (Santa Monica, Calif.: 2002). Page 6 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting research on young adults—their primary target market. During this period, the joint program developed an advertising campaign to target influencers of prospective recruits, as recommended in DOD’s review. In addition to their overall campaigns, all of the services have specialized campaigns to target diverse segments of the young adult population. For instance, the Navy created a Web site, called El Navy, which is designed to better communicate with the Hispanic market, and the Army has specifically tailored radio advertisements to reach the African American market. The services also incorporated a greater variety of public relations and promotional activities, such as participating in job fairs and sponsoring sports car racing teams, as an integral part of their advertising programs. As shown in table 1, there are essentially nine advertising programs that are managed separately by the military services, reserve components, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Table 1: DOD’s Advertising Campaign Slogans, Program Descriptions, and Examples of Key Changes Current campaign slogans Components (year established) Program descriptions and examples of key changes Army, Army Reserve An Army of One (2001) • Army and Army Reserve combined programs. Army National Guard You Can (1997) • Army National Guard program independently managed. • Largest active and reserve recruiting mission and advertising budget. • New advertising campaigns and contractors. • Advertises in all national media venues. • Engages in promotional events, such as sports car racing sponsorship, high school sports, and video games. • Initiated on-line recruiting. Navy Accelerate Your Life (2001) • Separate advertising programs for Navy and Naval Reserve (reorganized recruiting under one commander). Naval Reserve Stay Strong (2001) • Second largest active duty recruiting mission. • New advertising campaigns and contractors. • Advertises in all major media. Air Force Cross into the Blue (2001) • Three independent advertising programs. Air Force Reserve Above and Beyond (1998) • Third largest active duty recruiting mission. • New advertising campaigns and contractors. Air National Guard Fuel Your Future (1999) • Active Air Force emphasizing promotional activities and events, such as traveling recruiting trucks and sports car racing. • Initiated a national television campaign for the active Air Force. • Increased use of Internet recruiting across the active and reserve components. Page 7 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Current campaign slogans Components (year established) Program descriptions and examples of key changes Marine Corps, Marine Corps Marines, The Few, The Proud • Marine Corps and Marine Corps reserve integrated programs. Reserve (1986) • Smallest recruiting mission of the services. • Marine Corps brand image not changed for 30 years and same advertising contractor for 56 years. • Emphasis on television, especially sports programming. Joint Program Today’s Military—See It for • Developed advertising campaign to target influencers of What It Really Is (2003) prospective recruits that includes magazine advertisements, use of Web site, and television public service announcements. • New advertising contractor. • Conducts market research and studies for DOD’s advertising programs. • Provides other support for DOD’s advertising programs. Source: DOD. The active services told us that they are pleased with their new advertising campaigns and agencies, and they believe that the revised and better- funded campaigns have placed them in a more competitive position to recruit young adults. The sluggish U.S. economy has also narrowed employment options and is considered to be an important factor in easing the recruiting challenge. Today, all of the active services are meeting or exceeding their overall recruiting goals. Most of the reserve components are also achieving their recruiting goals. As of June 2003, the Army National Guard was falling short of its recruiting goals because of extensive overseas deployments and the implementation of stop loss (restrictions on leaving the military). Army National Guard officials stated that they expect to meet their goals by the end of fiscal year 2003. Some reserve officers expressed concerns about the negative impact of the recent high deployment rates on future recruiting. The services, especially the reserve components, continue to face challenges in recruiting individuals with some types of specific training or skills, such as medical, legal, and construction, and they have developed some specialized advertising campaigns targeted to recruit them. Since fiscal year 1998, the services have changed how they allocate advertising funding, according to the figures provided by DOD. Grouped into three broad categories, advertising funding includes: (1) events marketing, public affairs and public relations, Internet, and other; (2) national media; and (3) direct mail and miscellaneous recruiting support. One of the categories—events marketing, public affairs and public relations, Internet, and other—has shown the greatest increase as a percentage of the total budget, nearly tripling from around 10 percent in fiscal year 1998 to 29 percent in fiscal year 2003. This increase was used Page 8 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting partly to create and produce new advertising campaigns and strategies. Service officials told us that event marketing and public relations activities provide recruiters with greater opportunities to interact with potential recruits and supplement their national media campaigns and other methods of advertising. One example is the Army’s sponsorship of a sports racing car. (See fig. 1.) Internet and Web-site recruiting have also increased significantly from fiscal year 1998 through fiscal year 2003. All of the active military services have increased the amount of advertising on the Internet and have used interactive Web sites to complement their traditional recruiting and advertising methods. Figure 1: Army-Sponsored Sports Racing Car The expenditures for the national media category, which includes paid television, radio, and magazine advertisements, have remained relatively constant. This means that this category’s proportion of the growing total advertising budgets has actually declined. Specifically, expenditures for the national media in fiscal year 1998 were more than half of the advertising budget; currently, it represents about 40 percent. Television advertising—which offers tremendous reach to target audiences— dominates this category. Television advertising has remained the single largest advertising expenditure: paid television is still about a quarter of the total advertising budget for all of the military components. Page 9 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting DOD Has Significantly DOD’s advertising funding has nearly doubled in the years since 1998 and Increased Funding for most of these increases occurred in the earlier years. (See fig. 2.) Total Advertising advertising funding for all of the services increased 98 percent, from $299 million in fiscal year 1998 to $592 million in fiscal year 2003.11 The total DOD advertising budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2004 was $592.8 million. Figure 2: Total DOD Recruiting Advertising Funding for Fiscal Years 1998 to 2003 Note: The funding amounts were taken from DOD’s and the services’ congressional budget justification books (adjusted to account for inflation). a In-year estimate. Since fiscal year 1998, DOD’s advertising funding, which is included in DOD’s operation and maintenance appropriations, has increased at a significantly higher rate than the total of all of DOD’s operation and maintenance funding. DOD officials cite media inflation as one reason for increased advertising funding. Inflation for some types of media, especially for television commercials, has been higher than general inflation. However, this is not the reason for all of the increases in advertising funding during this period because not all of the advertising funding is used for media advertising. For example, only about a quarter of 11 In nominal dollars, DOD’s total recruiting advertising funding for fiscal years 1998-2002, consecutively, was $271 million, $379 million, $450 million, $501 million, and $595 million. Page 10 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting advertising funds are currently spent to buy time to run television commercials. Growing advertising costs are only part of a rapidly increasing total investment in recruiting. The rising advertising and overall recruiting costs can be seen in the investment per enlisted recruit—an important bottom- line measure that shows the amount of money spent to enlist each recruit. Today, the services are spending almost three times as much on advertising per recruit than in fiscal year 1990. We examined data collected by DOD from the services, and it showed that the total advertising investment per enlisted recruit rose from approximately $640 to $1,900 between fiscal year 1990 and fiscal year 2003. As a proportion of the total recruiting investment, advertising has increased from 8 percent in fiscal year 1990 to 14 percent in fiscal year 2003. Bonuses and incentives to enlist have also increased substantially during this same period. The total recruiting investment per recruit increased almost 65 percent, from approximately $8,100 in fiscal year 1990 to $13,300 in fiscal year 2003. Very steep growth occurred between fiscal year 1998 and fiscal year 2002. This is shown in figure 3. Page 11 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Figure 3: Total Recruiting Investment per Enlisted Recruit for Fiscal Years 1990 to 2003 The increases are not evenly distributed across the services’ advertising programs. (See table 2.) The Army has the largest advertising budget, and the Army active and reserve components account for nearly half (about $295 million) of the total advertising funding. The Marine Corps, at just under $50 million, has the smallest advertising budget. The Air Force has experienced the most significant increase in funding, in part owing to the creation of its first national television campaign. The Navy’s advertising funding has also increased, but this is primarily due to the addition of costs related to the Blue Angels12 and a program to test recruiting kiosks at public locations. 12 The Blue Angels, the Navy’s flight demonstration team, performs at air shows and special events. The recruiting advertising budget funds the operation and maintenance costs related to the team. Page 12 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting DOD’s Joint Advertising, Market Research, and Studies Program is responsible for (1) providing market research and studies for recruiting and (2) developing an advertising campaign to target adult influencers, such as parents, coaches, and career counselors. Currently, the joint program is conducting market research and studies and providing other support for the services’ advertising programs, such as purchasing lists of high school students and recent graduates for use in mailing advertisements. In addition, the program is implementing a limited print advertising campaign targeting influencers in fiscal year 2003. The joint advertising campaign has not had consistent funding. Program managers told us that the current funding level is insufficient to fully implement the influencer advertising campaign they have developed. In past years, DOD cut funding for the joint advertising program because of concerns that the program office was not adequately executing its advertising budget. For fiscal year 2003, Congress provided the joint advertising program with less funding than DOD requested, and DOD subsequently reallocated part of the remaining joint advertising funding to a program that it considered a higher priority. Page 13 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Table 2: Summary of DOD’s Recruiting Advertising Funding Constant fiscal year 2003 dollars in millions 1998 2003 Percentage Components (actual) (in-year estimate) change Army $113.7 $196.9 73 Army Reserve 17.0 50.2 196 Army National Guarda 23.2 48.2 108 Navy 75.7 107 41 Naval Reserve 2.4 7.4 208 Air Force 18.3 90.5 395 Air Force Reserve 4.6 13.5 193 a Air National Guard 4.4 5.8 31 Marine Corps 29.8 46.5 56 Marine Corps Reserve 3.0 2.9 -3 b Joint Program 6.8 22.9 237 Totals $298.9 $591.8 98 Source: DOD. Note: The funding amounts were taken from DOD’s and the services’ congressional budget justification books (adjusted to account for inflation). a The advertising funding for the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard is for both recruiting and retention. These figures do not include the funding for recruiting and retention advertising done by the states and territories. b DOD subsequently reallocated part of this funding. DOD does not have adequate outcome measures to evaluate the DOD Does Not effectiveness of its advertising as part of its overall recruiting effort. Adequately Measure Effective program management requires the establishment of clear objectives and outcome measures to evaluate the program, and DOD has Advertising’s established neither. This has been a long-standing problem for DOD Effectiveness primarily because measuring the impact of advertising is inherently difficult, especially for a major life decision such as joining the military. Owing to the absence of established advertising objectives and outcome measures, DOD has not consistently collected and disseminated key information that would allow it to better assess advertising’s contribution to achieving recruiting goals. This information would include public awareness of military recruiting advertising and the willingness of young adults to join the military. Rather, the services report outcome measures that focus on achieving overall recruiting goals instead of isolating the specific contribution of advertising. Without adequate information and Page 14 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting outcome measures, the Office of the Secretary of Defense cannot satisfactorily review the services’ advertising budget justifications nor can it determine the return on their advertising dollars as part of their overall recruiting investment. Effective Management The Secretary of Defense is required by law to enhance the effectiveness Requires Clear Program of DOD’s recruitment programs through an aggressive program of Objectives and Outcome advertising and market research targeted at prospective recruits and those who may influence them.13 DOD guidance requires the services, by active Measures and reserve components, to report their resource inputs—how much they are spending on advertising.14 DOD guidance also requires the services to report on overall recruiting outcomes15—their recruit quantity and quality. However, the guidance does not require active and reserve components to report information specifically about the advertising programs’ recruiting effectiveness. Effective program management requires the establishment of clearly defined objectives and outcome measures to evaluate programs. The Government Performance and Results Act was intended to help federal program managers enhance the effectiveness of their programs.16 It requires agencies to establish strategic plans for program activities that include, among other things, a mission statement covering major functions and operations, outcome-related goals and objectives, and a description of how these goals and objectives are to be achieved. GPRA shifted the focus of accountability for federal programs from inputs, such as staffing and resource levels, to outcomes. This requires agencies to measure the outcomes of their programs and to summarize the findings of program evaluations in their performance reports. The Office of Management and Budget’s guidance implementing GPRA requires agencies to establish 13 10 U.S.C. § 503. 14 DOD Instruction 1304.8, Military Procurement Resources Report, May 28, 1991. 15 DOD Instruction 7730.56, Monthly Report of Personnel Statistics, September 15, 1975. 16 Pub. L. No. 103-62, Aug. 3, 1993. Page 15 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting meaningful program objectives and identify outcome measures that compare actual program results with established program objectives.17 Lack of Adequate Outcome DOD does not have adequate information to measure the effectiveness of Measures Limits DOD’s its advertising as part of the overall recruiting effort. Measuring Ability to Effectively advertising’s effectiveness has been a long-standing problem, partly because it is inherently difficult to measure the impact that advertising has Allocate Its Recruiting on recruiting. DOD has not established advertising program objectives and Investments it lacks adequate outcome measures of the impact that advertising programs have on recruiting. Outcome measures are used to evaluate how closely a program’s achievements are aligned with program objectives, and to assess whether advertising is achieving its intended outcome. DOD currently requires the services and reserve components to report on inputs and outcomes related to overall recruiting. These measures are important in assessing DOD’s overall recruiting success; however, they do not assess advertising’s contribution to the recruiting process. Measuring Advertising’s In our 2000 report, we noted that the services do not know which of their Effectiveness Is a Long- recruiting initiatives—advertising, recruiters, or bonuses—work best.18 standing and Difficult Problem This prevented DOD from being able to effectively allocate its recruiting investment among the multiple recruiting resources. We recommended that DOD and the services assess the relative success of their recruiting strategies, including how the services can create the most cost-effective mix of recruiters, enlistment bonuses, college incentives, advertising, and other recruiting tools. In comments on that report, DOD stated that it intended to develop a joint-service model that would allow trade-off analyses to determine the relative cost-effectiveness of the various recruiting resources. This has not been done, and the current DOD cost performance trade-off model does not support analyses across the services’ budgets. Similarly, a 2002 Office of Management and Budget assessment, known as the Program Assessment Rating Tool, found that DOD’s recruiting program had met its goal of enlisting adequate numbers of recruits; however, since there were no measures of program efficiency, the overall 17 Office of Management and Budget, Preparation and Submission of Strategic Plans, Annual Performance Plans, and Annual Program Performance Reports, Circular No. A-11, Part 6, June 2002. 18 GAO/NSIAD-00-146. Page 16 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting rating for the recruiting program was only “moderately effective.” In its assessment, the Office of Management and Budget noted the inability of the recruiting program to assess the impact of individual resources, such as advertising and recruiters. The services continually adjust the mix of funding between advertising and other recruiting resources to accomplish their program goals. They have generally increased spending on advertising, added recruiters, and increased or added bonuses at the same time, making it impossible to determine the relative value of each of these initiatives. Other studies have reached similar conclusions. In 2000, a review of DOD’s advertising programs resulted in a recommendation that they be evaluated for program effectiveness.19 More recently, the National Academy of Sciences also cited the need to evaluate advertising’s direct influence on actual enlistments.20 The academy is now doing additional work on evaluating DOD’s advertising and recruiting. The lack of adequate information is partly attributable to the inherent difficulty in measuring advertising’s affect on recruiting. Measuring advertising’s effectiveness is a challenge for all businesses, according to advertising experts. Private-sector organizations cannot attribute increases in sales directly to advertising because there are many other factors influencing the sale of products, such as quality, price, and the availability of similar products. Many factors impact recruiting as well, such as employment and educational opportunities, making it especially difficult to isolate and measure the effectiveness of advertising. Enlisting in a military service is a profound life decision. Typically, an enlistment is at least a 4-year commitment and can be the start of a long military career. Another complicating factor in measuring advertising’s effectiveness is that it consists of different types and is employed differently throughout the recruiting process to attract and enlist potential recruits. Figure 4 displays the recruiting process and demonstrates the role of advertising while a young adult may be considering enlisting in the military. 19 Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy), A New Focus for Military Advertising and Market Research (March 2000). 20 National Research Council, Attitudes, Aptitudes, and Aspirations of American Youth: Implications for Military Recruitment (Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2003). Page 17 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Figure 4: The Use of Advertising throughout the Recruiting Process As the figure shows, the use of multiple types of advertising at various stages in the recruiting continuum makes it difficult to assess the effectiveness of specific types of advertising. A single recruit may be exposed to some or all of these advertising types. Traditional advertising in the national media, such as television and magazines, is intended to disseminate information designed to influence consumer activity in the marketplace. The services typically use such national media to make young people aware of a military service, the career options available in a service, and other opportunities the services have to offer them. Direct mail, special events, and the services’ Web sites are utilized to provide more detailed information about the services and the opportunities available for persons who enlist. These marketing resources give people the opportunity to let a recruiter know they are possibly interested in enlisting in a service. DOD Lacks Guidance Another contributing factor to the absence of advertising objectives and Establishing Advertising outcome measures is the lack of DOD-wide guidance. Officials from the Programs’ Objectives and Office of the Secretary of Defense view their role as overseeing the Outcome Measures decentralized programs managed by the individual services and reserve components. They scrutinize the quality and quantity of recruits and gather data about the uses of advertising funds. However, they told us they were reluctant to be more prescriptive because of a concern about appearing to micromanage the successful recruiting programs of the active Page 18 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting and reserve components. On the basis of our work, their sensitivity is warranted. The active and reserve components tend to guard their independence, seeking to maintain their “brand” and arguing that the current decentralized structure allows them to be more responsive to their individual needs. The Office of the Secretary of Defense seeks to coordinate the active and reserve components’ activities through joint committees and to centralize research that can be utilized by all. Defining exactly what to measure may be difficult, but it is not impossible. DOD and the services, as well as their contracted advertising agencies, generally agree that there are at least two key advertising outcomes that should be measured: (1) the awareness of recruiting advertising and (2) the willingness or “propensity” to consider joining the military. However, this is not clearly stated in any program guidance. Current DOD guidance requires only that the services provide information on funding for advertising, the quality and quantity of recruits, and the allocation of resources to the various advertising categories.21 Although this information is valuable—in fact, critical—it is not sufficient to evaluate and isolate the effectiveness of the services’ advertising programs. DOD’s efforts thus far to measure the awareness of recruiting advertising and willingness to join the military have met with problems. Inconsistent funding for the Joint Advertising, Market Research, and Studies program has hampered consistent collection of this information. DOD has sponsored an advertising tracking study designed to monitor the awareness of individual service campaigns since 2001. However, officials from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps told us that they do not regularly use the research provided by this study. According to program officials, there were numerous problems with the advertising tracking study.22 DOD is implementing changes to the study that are intended to improve its usefulness to all of the active and reserve components. In the absence of reliable and timely advertising tracking, the Army implemented its own tracking study, and the Air Force is currently planning an experimental study to assess the effectiveness of its national television advertising campaign, according to program managers. To monitor the willingness to 21 DOD Instruction 1304.8, Military Procurement Resources Report, May 28, 1991; and DOD Instruction 7730.56, Monthly Report of Personnel Statistics, September 15, 1975. 22 The advertising agency contracted by DOD’s joint program also identified several problems, including (1) having an extremely large sample size, (2) voluminous data but poor analysis, and (3) poor training for the services in using the data. Page 19 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting join the military, DOD sponsors youth and adult polls, which are designed to track changes in attitudes and young adults’ aspirations. These polls replaced the Youth Attitude Tracking Survey, which had been in place for a number of years and provided long-term trend data about the propensity of young adults to consider the military. The services expressed concern that the current polls ask questions that are significantly different from those asked in the prior survey, which makes the analysis of trends difficult. DOD officials also pointed to research indicating that advertising is a cost- effective recruiting investment when compared with other recruiting initiatives. For example, a report that was done for DOD found that it was less expensive to enlist a recruit through increased investments in advertising than through increased investments in military pay for new recruits in the Army and Navy.23 Similarly, a study for DOD analyzed the marginal cost of different recruiting initiatives and concluded that, under certain conditions, it was more cost-effective to invest additional funds in advertising than in military pay for recruits or recruiters.24 DOD officials told us that these reports, which used data from the 1980s and early 1990s, provide the best research available on the topic. However, the situation has changed dramatically in recent years. DOD has altered its advertising and recruiting strategies and is spending much more on advertising. Advertising itself is also changing and is more fragmented with an expanding array of television channels and other media. Finally, media inflation, which has increased faster than general inflation even in the sluggish economy, has lessened buying power. Funding devoted to advertising has increased considerably since fiscal Conclusions year 1998. Although the military services are now generally meeting their overall recruiting goals, the question of whether the significant increases in advertising budgets were a main contributor to the services’ recruiting successes remains open. During the same period, DOD also greatly increased funding for bonuses and other incentives to enlist recruits. At 23 John Warner, Curtis Simon, and Deborah Payne, Enlistment Supply in the 1990s: A Study of the Navy College Fund and Other Enlistment Incentive Programs, Defense Manpower Data Center, report No. 2000-015 (April 2001), p. 45. 24 Jim Dertouzos and Steven Garber, Is Military Advertising Effective? An Estimation Methodology and Applications to Recruiting in the 1980s and 90s (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand Corporation, 2003). Page 20 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting the same time, the U.S. economy slowed dramatically, narrowing the other employment options available to young people. These factors make it difficult to disentangle the effects of the internal DOD investments made in recruiting from the changes in the external recruiting environment. Even though the effect of advertising is inherently difficult to measure, this issue needs to be addressed. This is crucial because DOD is now spending nearly $592 million annually on recruiting advertising, or about $1,900 per enlisted recruit. In addition, the total funding for all of DOD’s recruiting efforts is now almost $4 billion. DOD needs better advertising outcome measures to allow it to oversee and manage the advertising investment as part of its overall recruiting effort. DOD and the services have an understandable focus on the most important program outcome—to ensure that the military has enough quality recruits to fill its ranks. Judged by this short-term measure, the recruiting programs are successful. But now that DOD is meeting its recruiting goals, should it reduce advertising funding or continue at its current funding levels? DOD believes that continued investments in advertising are critical to keeping awareness up in the young adult population and combating the declining propensity among today’s young adults to join the military. However, DOD has neither stated these goals clearly in its guidance, nor consistently gathered information to ensure that these objectives are being met. Now that it is meeting its recruiting goals, DOD needs to turn its attention to program effectiveness and efficiency to ensure that the active and reserve components are getting the best return on their recruiting and advertising investments. To improve DOD’s ability to adequately measure the impact of its Recommendations for advertising programs on its recruiting mission, we recommend that the Executive Action Secretary of Defense direct the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness to issue guidance that would (1) set clear, measurable objectives for DOD’s advertising programs; (2) develop outcome measures for each of DOD’s advertising programs that clearly link advertising program performance with these objectives; and (3) use these outcome measures to monitor the advertising programs’ performance and make fact-based choices about advertising funding as part of the overall recruiting investment in the future. Page 21 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting DOD concurred with all of our recommendations. In commenting on this Agency Comments report, DOD stated that the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for and Our Evaluation Personnel and Readiness, in concert with the services, will develop an advertising strategic framework to provide overall direction for DOD’s advertising programs. The framework, with associated outcome measures, would allow the office to monitor advertising results regularly and make fact-based decisions at a strategic level. It would provide an overarching structure within which each service would develop its own advertising program strategy, program objectives, and outcome measures. The framework would also direct the activities of the DOD joint program to ensure support to the services. DOD also commented that current research has not advanced to the point where models exist that adequately account for the many factors that affect recruiting as well as for the differences in the services. DOD stated that it will address this research gap through several initiatives intended to advance the measurement of the performance of recruiting and advertising. The National Academy of Sciences is currently developing an evaluation framework for recruiting and advertising and expects to publish a report in early 2004. DOD’s comments are provided in their entirety in appendix II. DOD officials also provided technical comments that we have incorporated as appropriate. We are sending copies of this report to interested congressional committees; the Secretaries of Defense, the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; and the Commandant of the Marine Corps. We will send copies to other interested parties upon request. In addition, the report will be available at no charge on the GAO Web site at http://www.gao.gov. Page 22 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Please contact me at (202) 512-5559 if you or your staffs have any questions regarding this report. Key contributors to this report were John Pendleton, Lori Atkinson, Nancy Benco, Kurt Burgeson, Alan Byroade, Chris Currie, LaTonya Gist, Jim McGaughey, Charles Perdue, Barry Shillito, and John Smale. Derek B. Stewart Director, Defense Capabilities and Management Page 23 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix I: Scope and Methodology Appendix I: Scope and Methodology To describe the changes in the Department of Defense’s (DOD) advertising programs and advertising funding trends since the late 1990s, we reviewed advertising exhibits in the operation and maintenance congressional justification books as well as budget information provided by the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Since our objective was to look at broad funding trends, we did not reconcile these requested amounts with actual obligations or expenditures by the active and reserve components. We interviewed active and reserve component officials to understand program changes since the late 1990s. We obtained recruiting mission goals and actual accessions back to fiscal year 1990 from the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the services. We obtained information on the quality of accessions of each of the active and reserve components back to fiscal year 1990, as well as the investment per active enlisted accession back to fiscal year 1990. We reviewed information from the Defense Human Resources Activity and the Joint Marketing and Advertising Committee for discussions of advertising programs. The services provided additional information regarding the types of advertising media they use. To assess the adequacy of the measures used by DOD to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising, we reviewed information on outcome measures used to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising provided by each of the active and reserve components; the advertising agencies that are their contractors; and the DOD Joint Advertising, Market Research, and Studies program. We spoke with the advertising contractors to learn what measures of effectiveness they are aware of and use. We also reviewed the requirements for establishing program objectives and outcome measures in the Government Performance and Results Act and in Office of Management and Budget guidance. We interviewed DOD and advertising officials from each of the active and reserve components, as well as representatives from the services’ advertising agencies. We also reviewed their programs, procedures, and oversight activities. These interviews were conducted with officials in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness; Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller/Chief Financial Officer); Defense Human Resources Activity, Joint Advertising, Market Research, and Studies Office; Army Accessions Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky; Air Force Recruiting Service, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas; Navy Recruiting Command, Millington, Tennessee; Marine Corps Recruiting Command, Quantico Marine Corps Base, Virginia; Army National Guard Recruiting and Retention Command, Arlington, Virginia; Naval Reserve Command, New Orleans, Louisiana; Air Force Reserve Command, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia; and the Air National Guard Page 24 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix I: Scope and Methodology Office of Recruiting and Retention, Arlington, Virginia. We also interviewed officials at the contracted advertising agencies for the joint program, the Army, the Navy, the Marine Corps, and the Air Force. We reviewed reports on recruiting and advertising from DOD, the Congressional Research Service, the private sector, and others. We obtained recruiting advertising budget and funding data for types of advertising from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. We reviewed, but did not verify, the accuracy of the data provided by DOD. We conducted our review from October 2002 through July 2003 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Page 25 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix II: Comments from the Department Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense of Defense Page 26 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense Page 27 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense Note: Page numbers in the draft report may differ from those in this report. Page 28 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense Page 29 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Defense Page 30 GAO-03-1005 Military Recruiting Related GAO Products Related GAO Products Program Evaluation: Strategies for Assessing How Information Dissemination Contributes to Agency Goals. GAO-02-923. Washington, D.C.: September 30, 2002. Military Personnel: Services Need to Assess Efforts to Meet Recruiting Goals and Cut Attrition. GAO/NSIAD-00-146. Washington, D.C.: June 23, 2000. Military Personnel: First-Term Recruiting and Attrition Continue to Require Focused Attention. GAO/T-NSIAD-00-102. Washington, D.C.: February 24, 2000. Military Recruiting: DOD Could Improve Its Recruiter Selection and Incentive Systems. GAO/NSIAD-98-58. Washington, D.C.: January 30, 1998. Military Personnel: High Aggregate Personnel Levels Maintained Throughout Drawdown. GAO/NSIAD-95-97. Washington, D.C.: June 2, 1995. Military Recruiting: More Innovative Approaches Needed. GAO/NSIAD- 95-22. Washington, D.C.: December 22, 1994. Military Downsizing: Balancing Accessions and Losses Is Key to Shaping the Future Force. GAO/NSIAD-93-241. Washington, D.C.: September 30, 1993. 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Military Recruiting: DOD Needs to Establish Objectives and Measures to Better Evaluate Advertising's Effectiveness
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2003-09-19.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)