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Military Readiness: Clear Policy and Reliable Data Would Help DOD Better Manage Service Members Time Away from Home
The Department of Defense (DOD), military service, and U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) policies vary in identifying specific and measurable thresholds on the total time individual service members can be away from home, known as personnel tempo or perstempo. DOD's policy issued in 2013 states that service members should not be deployed for longer than they are at home. However, the policy does not set thresholds for perstempo, which includes time away from home for exercises and training in addition to deployment. Service members are sometimes away from home for long periods for training, exercises, or other activities. For example, Air Force officials told GAO that F-16 pilots participate in multiple exercises every year that require them to spend significant time away from home. The Navy and SOCOM set specific and measurable perstempo thresholds in policy in 2014 and 2016, respectively. However, the other services either are not enforcing or have not established specific and measurable perstempo thresholds in their policies. DOD has maintained the waiver of statutory perstempo thresholds since 2001, and officials have cited the effect of the high pace of operations and training on service members; however, DOD has not taken action to focus attention on the management of perstempo thresholds within the services and department-wide. Unless DOD ensures that perstempo thresholds are established and followed while statutory thresholds are waived, DOD will be unable to judge whether service members are spending too much total time away from home and, if so, whether this has resulted in any associated effects on military readiness.
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