Federal military transition programs often redundant, don't track effectiveness, watchdog says

Julia LeDoux
July 10, 2020 - 8:49 am
GAO

US Army

The 45 federal programs that provide veterans, service members and their families with civilian career assistance are often redundant -- frequently providing the same help to similar groups, according to a recent report from the Government Accountability Office. 

According to the GAO, 11 agencies oversee the programs. In all, 25 of those programs offer educational counseling and 22 offer employment counseling. Efforts to coordinate those activities are also being made.

“Coordination efforts included co-located services, participant referrals and interagency agreements to share information,” the report states. In the report, the GAO analyzed responses to its 2018 survey of federal agency officials to develop a program inventory. GAO also categorized programs by populations served and services provided

Among the agencies the programs serve are the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs and Small Business Administration. The GAO found the agencies varied in how they assessed the effectiveness of their programs. 

Eight of the 45 programs reported having "no goals that define program achievements,” the GAO said.

Nine of the 45 programs also reported having neither tracked outcomes or conducting recent evaluations, the report found.

 “According to agency officials, these programs had not assessed outcomes for various reasons, such as that the program was relatively small, not statutorily required to set performance goals, or lacked a data collection system to track outcomes,”  reads the GAO report.

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The GAO added that by “ establishing a system to define goals and assess outcomes — leading practices for monitoring program performance — agencies are better able to demonstrate whether programs are achieving their intended results and ensure resources are being appropriately targeted to provide career assistance to military families.”

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GAO made three recommendations for agencies to develop performance goals and assess program outcomes.
“The agencies generally agreed with GAO's recommendations, but DHS did not,” the report reads. “GAO maintains that developing performance goals and outcome measures would help DHS make resource determinations and achieve program purposes.”

Roughly 250,000 servicemembers transition from military to civilian life every year, according to a previous GAO survey.

Reach Julia LeDoux at Julia@connectingvets.com.

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