When the applicant accepts an offer, he or she signs an enlistment contract. Only a small proportion of new enlistees is sent to a recruit training center from the MEPS within a month of enlistment. Most enter the DEP, which allows up to a year before the individual reports for duty, with up to a 365-day extension upon approval by the respective Service secretary (10 U.S.C. 513, as amended October 1999). The DEP controls recruit flow into training seats at technical schools. The Services also use the DEP to prepare enlistees for basic training, providing them with supervised exercise programs, if needed. The DEP acclimates recruits to the military and enhances training performance, which decreases attrition (Gilmore, 2001). Average time in the DEP is between three and five months.
Qualified high school students may enlist in the DEP with a reporting date after graduation; their enlistment contract is contingent upon successfully completing high school. Not all DEP enlistees actually enter active duty. By Service, an average of 13 to 21 percent of individuals in the DEP changed their minds and asked to be released from their enlistment contracts in FY 2002. The Services consider enlistment in the DEP a serious commitment, but they do not require youth to enter military service against their will.