Two of the Defense Department’s transition-readiness programs were recently studied for whether they work, receiving inconclusive results from the Government Accountability Office, failing to prove the programs are truly helping service members transition into the civilian workforce.

GAO’s report examined the steps the Defense Department took to address challenges faced by transitioning service members while also determining what the efficacy of the credentialing programs may be, in addition to the effects this may have on military recruitment and retention rates.

The results were ultimately inclusive, summarily showing that the DoD has not provided enough evidence or data to show that transition programs are actually working, while also failing to assess data that was collected.

“We have 200,000 men and women leaving armed services for civilian employment each year,” Dawn Locke, acting Director of the Education, Workforce, and Income Security department for GAO said in an email to Military Times. “We must ensure that the incredible skills and experiences they’ve gained while in the military do not go unnoticed when it’s time for them to enter the civilian workforce.”

The two programs specifically studied were Credentialing Opportunities Online (COOL) and U.S. Military Apprenticeship Program (USMAP), both of which are offered across all of the service branches.

COOL helps service members gain professional credentials accepted in civilian career fields that are related to their military training and skills, such as commercial radio operator licenses, aviation mechanic certificates and Air Traffic Control Tower Operator Certificates.

USMAP allows military members to complete civilian apprenticeships while still on active duty, including those for computer operators, cooks and cement masons.

In fiscal year 2020, data provided by the Defense Department showed that approximately 18,200 military members utilized the COOL program, with around 12,700 completing one or more credentials. At the same time, more than 110,000 military members participated in USMAP, but with only 17,400 completing all of their apprenticeship requirements.

Without data analysis being conducted on these programs, there is no way for the individual branches to know whether they should continue to use these programs or look for other opportunities to ensure military members success once separated from the service.

The last study conducted by the Defense Department on the efficacy of these transition programs was in 2015, before these programs were even offered in the four branches and shared with the Coast Guard.

Despite the responsibility of the Defense Department to ensure that service members are able to transition out of the services as smoothly as possible, the DoD told GAO that no plans have been made to assess whether these programs actually work.

However, department officials have agreed with recommendations made by the GAO to start assessing the programs’ efficacy levels in order to better allocate resources and to best serve military members and their careers. The Defense Department is reportedly waiting on new agency-wide instructions and policies regarding data collection to go into effect before moving forward with any proposed changes.

“We will continue to follow-up with the DoD so we can report to Congress and the public when the recommendation has been implemented,” Locke said.

According to their website, “GAO provides Congress, the heads of executive agencies, and the public with timely, fact-based, non-partisan information that can be used to improve government and save taxpayers billions of dollars.”

Rachel is a Marine Corps veteran, Penn State alumna and Master's candidate at New York University for Business and Economic Reporting.

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