2

Policy Goals and Testing

The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is an important tool for human resource management in the military. As is true of tests in the private sector, the ASVAB both influences and is influenced by policy goals and institutional context. This chapter sketches the policy environment in broad outline and then describes how testing operates in that environment.

The operation of the recruitment, selection, and classification system in the military has many distinctive aspects. To begin with, military service is intimately connected with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Moreover, the institutional context in which military planners operate is rather more complex than most, and the scale of operations is certainly larger than most. Most important, the military mission is unique: in order to protect the national security, military personnel are entrusted with the means and social permission to use violence, one consequence of which is that the military has much greater legitimate control over the lives of its personnel than do civilian employers.

Nevertheless, many of the basic issues in human resource management are not inherently different for the military planner than for the civilian employer: there is a continuing need to recruit new people, to screen and sort applicants, to avoid selecting too many people who fail or rejecting too many who would have succeeded, to ensure that selection procedures are fair, and to try to get the best workers possible within cost constraints.



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Performance Assessment for the Workplace 2 Policy Goals and Testing The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) is an important tool for human resource management in the military. As is true of tests in the private sector, the ASVAB both influences and is influenced by policy goals and institutional context. This chapter sketches the policy environment in broad outline and then describes how testing operates in that environment. The operation of the recruitment, selection, and classification system in the military has many distinctive aspects. To begin with, military service is intimately connected with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. Moreover, the institutional context in which military planners operate is rather more complex than most, and the scale of operations is certainly larger than most. Most important, the military mission is unique: in order to protect the national security, military personnel are entrusted with the means and social permission to use violence, one consequence of which is that the military has much greater legitimate control over the lives of its personnel than do civilian employers. Nevertheless, many of the basic issues in human resource management are not inherently different for the military planner than for the civilian employer: there is a continuing need to recruit new people, to screen and sort applicants, to avoid selecting too many people who fail or rejecting too many who would have succeeded, to ensure that selection procedures are fair, and to try to get the best workers possible within cost constraints.

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace Hence the policy issues in personnel management that the military job performance measurement research was designed to address, though of a distinctly military cast, are relevant to employers and applied psychologists more generally. Current manpower policy is driven by the need to find an appropriate equilibrium between demographic factors and performance requirements, on one hand, and deficit-induced fiscal stringency on the other. To an extent seldom found in other organizations, mental aptitude test scores define the terms of debate. Whether or not to continue with the all-volunteer force will depend in good part on the Services ' capacity to attract sufficient numbers of “high-quality” recruits to fill the high-technology jobs at a price the Congress is willing to pay. Likewise, at what level to fund recruiting, enlistment bonuses, and training; how much to emphasize reenlistment rather than recruitment; what percentage of women to admit; and, most directly, how high to set enlistment standards are all discussions that will take place with reference to recruit quality, defined primarily in terms of aptitude test scores. This chapter is designed to illustrate the fluid nature of military selection criteria. It looks at the impact of legal and regulatory constraints on enlistment standards; the influence of demographic and economic factors on the supply of recruits; the complicated interplay among military quality requirements, manpower supply, and cutoff scores on aptitude tests; and, not least important, the influence of manpower policy goals such as racial and ethnic integration on the recruitment, selection, and classification system. SELECTION AND TRAINING GOALS The official statement of military manpower policy calls for the Services to have the plans, programs, and resources to provide trained manpower to meet the demands of global conventional war (U.S. Air Force, 1987). This means that the Services must recruit, train, and maintain a manpower pool adequate to meet the programmed wartime levels. In addition, they must ensure that the training base can be rapidly expanded to sustain and expand the fighting forces. Implicit in this goal statement is the responsibility to look beyond the status quo, to identify changes in the types and kind of personnel needed, and to develop plans and procedures to make those changes. Effective authority over military manpower policy is shared between the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. The President, in addition to being commander-in-chief of the military, is responsible for organizing, training, and equipping the military forces. These responsibilities are carried out by the secretary of defense as head of the Department of Defense (DoD), which is subdivided into three Service departments—the Army, the Navy (including the Navy and the Marine Corps), and the Air

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace Force. Each Service department mirrors DoD in having a civilian chief and large combined civilian and military staffs. These staffs provide the executive branch oversight and guidance that influence every phase of military operations: personnel accession and force composition; training programs; research and development; weapons system procurement; and integrated logistics support systems. Congressional oversight of military manpower policy stems primarily from the power of the purse. As military budgets have grown in the years since World War II, so too has congressional scrutiny. The large standing peacetime Army became institutionalized after the Korean War, and along with this large force (and the dramatic developments in weapons technology that were part of the cold war) came large peacetime budgets. As those budgets grew, congressional staffs, both personal and committee staffs, grew commensurately. Necessary to help the Congress to better understand the scope and impact of military budget requests, expanded staff levels also meant that Congress gradually took on a powerful role in operational decision making. Congress now has great, and sometimes definitive, influence on what to buy and who to buy it from; the specific size of each Service; the ratio of officers to enlisted personnel; entrance requirements for enlisted personnel; and the way DoD should be organized. Annual budget deliberations and periodic authorization hearings have become important settings for the discussion of military manpower policy. The policy context is further complicated by interservice rivalries —the Services are in competition for recruits and resources—as well as by the wariness the Services all have of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). For example, the Services compete with each other and against OSD decisions on end strength, officer strength, and hardware procurement. And not least important, in their effort to get the resources needed to recruit and train the necessary people, manpower policy officials within each Service have to compete with those in charge of weapons procurement. RECRUITING THE FORCE Each year during the past decade the Services have enlisted approximately 300,000 recruits and trained them for work in hundreds of specialized jobs, from cook to sonar operator to machinegunner to intelligence specialist. Since 1973, the Services have depended on voluntary enlistments to fulfill their personnel needs. Because the majority of enlistees stay in service for only one tour of duty (usually three or four years), the Services experience a large regular turnover of people in entry-level jobs. Consequently, the Services have a large regular need for new personnel. Recruits are drawn mainly from the population of 18- to 24-year-olds, who might otherwise go to college or take jobs elsewhere. The Services can

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace offer applicants the opportunity to learn technical skills, as well as the less tangible benefits of travel, camaraderie, and service to their country. To maintain an adequate flow of applicants, each Service has a sizable cadre of recruiters and spends large sums on advertising, including highly visible advertising campaigns on television and in national magazines as well as ads in local newspapers (see Dertouzos, 1989, on advertising costs). The size of the recruiting budget is always an important point of negotiation with Congress. In addition, high schools are offered the use of the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) free of charge for vocational counseling of upper-level students in exchange for permitting Service representatives to speak to the students about the benefits of beginning their working lives in the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marines Corps. All told, substantial effort goes into military recruiting each year. In their search for applicants, the four Services must compete with colleges, government, and private industry. Recruiting is a continual challenge in the all-volunteer environment because, like their competitors, the Services do not accept all applicants. A battery of aptitude tests, a physical exam, and a personal history investigation are used to assess the mental, physical, and moral qualifications of the applicants. A substantial number of interested young people are screened out at the local recruiting stations. In recent years, recruiters have been seeking greater numbers of high-aptitude high school graduates. Recruiters will not encourage dropouts or young people who have been involved in illegal activities to apply. The recruiters are rewarded for their “quality” prospects. Of the 1 million candidates who receive the full regimen of mental, physical, and moral tests each year, more than a quarter are determined to be unqualified for service. Applicants who have not completed high school are currently not accepted unless they have very high aptitude scores because they are far more likely than graduates to leave or to be separated from the military before completing their first tour of duty. Applicants with relatively low aptitude scores are not considered cost-effective investments because they require more intensive training and perform less well (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Manpower, Reserve Affairs, and Logistics, 1981:8). Some applicants are rejected for medical reasons or because of prior illegal activities. Of those who are found qualified to enter military service, a good number—in 1989 it was 21 percent—eventually choose not to enlist. A candidate who qualifies for entry and who wants to enlist must still qualify for a particular job. Each military occupational specialty has its own special aptitude requirements that have been established on the basis of past experience to reject those who are poor risks to complete technical training without discouraging the better prospects. This is not a simple matter, because to some extent the various jobs within a Service must vie with each

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace other for the available recruits. Each of the many jobs needs a regular flow of new personnel into training slots and then job vacancies, and the available talent must be allocated in a balanced way so that in every career field the next generation of leadership is under development. Moreover, the applicants' desires must be addressed; since applicants have the option of not enlisting, they must be “sold” a job. The task of selling a job to an applicant falls to a group of counselors, called Service classifiers, at one of the 68 Military Entrance Processing Stations (MEPS) currently in operation across the country. Service classifiers try to place applicants in jobs in which the Service can make the best use of them; they try to offer a selection of jobs that is consonant with the Service's needs and the applicants' skills and interests. The classifier wants to place the candidate in the most demanding job for which he or she is qualified and to avoid jobs that would exceed the candidate 's capabilities. To fill unpopular jobs, some Services offer a cash bonus to induce qualified applicants to select these specialties. Service classifiers are aided by computer programs that follow complex algorithms for allocating people to jobs. The heart of each Service 's computerized allocation system is a nationwide data base linking all 68 MEPS into one interactive information bank that registers, for each occupational specialty, the number of slots or billets earmarked for that specialty, the rate at which the slots are being filled in the current recruiting period, the places available in the relevant technical training school, the aptitude scores required for the job, and other information relevant to placement decisions. The allocation algorithms are driven to some extent by the applicant's predicted performance on various jobs, based on scores on the ASVAB, the DoD-wide enlistment test. The algorithms are also driven by the current importance of the jobs to the Service and by the current demand of the jobs for recruits, based on the fill rate of the job compared with other competing jobs and the availability of school seats for training. Issues of minority and gender balance are also considered. The computer produces a ranked list of possibilities, typically in batches of five; the Service classifiers move on to the second batch only if they cannot interest the applicant in one of the top five jobs. A job is never listed if the applicant's aptitude scores are below the minimum standards for the job. Some jobs have minimum standards well above the standards for entry into the Service, but each Service has some jobs with entrance standards roughly equivalent to Service entry. Nevertheless, it is possible that on rare occasions, an applicant will meet the qualifications for Service entry but will not meet the minimum standard for any specific job. It is more likely that the applicant won't be qualified for the job that he or she wants, but Service classifiers are well prepared for such cases and can usually offer a job in the same or a related job family that has lower test score requirements.

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace Occasionally an applicant will be overqualified for his or her first choice, and again it is up to the Service classifier to raise the applicant's aspiration level. There are several indirect participants in the enlistment process. Foremost among these are the trainers. There is a technical school associated with nearly every job or cluster of jobs, where novices are trained to do the work. The leaders of the schools are proponents or spokespersons for the associated jobs. In addition to keeping curricula up to date, proponents help to manage personnel accessions. They influence the flow of applicants to their occupational specialties by adjusting the schedule of training sessions and specifying the numbers of people to be trained for each job in each session. With the help of proponents and other manpower managers, classifiers may arrange for applicants to delay entry into the Service in order to have a school seat awaiting them in the job of their choice when they enter. Proponents are also the major advocates for the entrance standards that are set for the jobs under their leadership. Demographic Trends in the Youth Population With the passage of the post–World War II baby boom generation into middle age, the cohort of 18- to 24-year-old males from which the military draws the vast majority of its recruits is on a significant downward slope. This downward trend, combined with the change to voluntary military service in 1973, presented military planners in the 1970s and 1980s with the prospect of an increasing shortage of qualified men. The issue was of great concern until the recent easing of the confrontational posture of the United States and the Soviet Union. The consequent reductions in force size planned for the 1990s have reduced its salience; still, it provides an interesting illustration of the interplay of military and congressional policy interests, and particularly of the intricate relationship between questions of recruit quality and recruiting costs. One obvious solution to the shortage of eligible men was to look to the other half of the population. The change in women's roles in civilian society since the 1960s, particularly their increased labor force participation, made an effective argument for the increased use of women in the military. From the 1970s, there was a gradual shift in policy, accompanied by the hesitancies and pockets of resistance one would expect given the tradition of male domination of the military, not only to increase the number of women in the enlisted and officer ranks, but also to assign them to a wider variety of (noncombat) jobs. Congress has had a role in the policy shift, as have high-level military planners, line managers, and the job counselors whose task it is to find enough qualified people to fill the training slots in all kinds of jobs.

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace A recent example is illustrative of the concern with recruit quality and recruiting costs that has led to greater use of women in the enlisted ranks. In 1988, the House Armed Services Committee, concerned by a projected decline of 25.3 percent in the number of men in the youth population by 1991, directed the Services to review their procedures for determining their total capacity for women. The committee's assumption was that a smaller cohort of available men would mean that more women would be needed to serve if recruiting goals in the volunteer force were to be met. Each of the Services conducted a study of the recruiting environment and subsequently expanded assignment opportunities for women and eased the enlistment ceilings somewhat (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Force Management and Personnel, 1988). The reorientation of policy on the utilization of women in the military in the last two decades was in some sense validated during the recent war in the Persian Gulf, when sizable numbers of women staffed artillery positions, piloted helicopters and cargo planes, worked as mechanics, and served in a variety of combat support functions. But ambivalences remain, within the military and in the larger society, about the use of women and about its effect on the military mission. Certainly the Services did not view the increased use of women as a total solution to the recruiting problems foreseen in 1988—if for no other reason than that women were by law (Air Force and Navy) or policy (Army) prohibited from serving in combat positions. The Army response to the congressional committee's concern about the increasingly competitive recruiting environment due to the declining youth population was to emphasize the importance of cash enlistment bonuses, educational incentives and Army College Fund Programs, and competitive compensation in order to attract and retain high-quality enlistees. All of these tactics have cost implications. The Air Force, widely viewed as the Service with the greatest potential to increase the number of women because fewer enlisted positions are subject to combat exclusions, concluded that the male youth decline would not drive its recruiting success or failure. The Navy, however, quite accurately foresaw that its attainment of recruiting goals would be very difficult under the existing marketing conditions, with keen competition for a shrinking recruitable population and constrained recruiting resources, particularly for advertising. Among other things, the 9,000 billets opened up to women as a result of the Navy review of its policies would require additional effort to attract them to the nontraditional, sea-intensive jobs (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Force Management and Personnel, 1988). Military recruiting for the 1990s poses a rather different set of issues. In line with congressional instruction, the Department of Defense intends to reduce substantially the size of the military. The plan is to reach an active

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace duty force of 1,630,000 in fiscal 1995, which represents a reduction of 25 percent from a peak of 2,174,000 in fiscal 1987. The reserve force will be reduced by 21 percent (Jehn, 1991). At the same time, the effects of recession and the budget deficit that are affecting government spending more generally will also require severe cuts in the defense budget, and more specifically in recruiting resources. Downsizing of the force, reduced budgets for advertising and recruiting, base closings, possible involuntary separations—all these conditions affect the recruiting environment and thus create uncertainties for military human resource planners. Even if the demographic trends no longer loom as large, the task of recruiting high-quality personnel, male and female, promises to remain challenging. Recruiting Policy and Fairness Issues One of the important goals in military manpower policy has been to build the Services to reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of American society (MacGregor, 1981; Eitelberg, 1986). As mentioned above, one of the factors built into the computerized allocation systems is minority recruiting goals; the jobs that the computer brings up for the Service classifier and the applicant to consider will take account of the applicant's racial or ethnic status and the so-called minority fill rate in the otherwise available jobs. For example, jobs to which few minorities have been assigned during the current recruiting period will be offered to minority applicants before other jobs, all other things being equal. The Services also have proactive recruiting programs to advertise the benefits of military service in minority communities. And indeed, for the last several decades, the military has been an important route to upward mobility for American minority-group members (MacGregor, 1981; Moskos and Butler, 1987; Jaynes and Williams, 1989; but see Laurence et al., 1989, for evidence that low-aptitude recruits do not reap civilian-sector benefits from military service). Although wartime needs for manpower at times brought large numbers of blacks into military service—blacks made up almost 11 percent of the Army in World War I (MacGregor, 1981:7)—traditional policies of segregation and outright exclusion began to break down only in World War II, due in part to the sheer inefficiency of maintaining separate black units. There was also a change at the top policy levels. Whereas the policy of exclusion was revived after the conclusion of the World War I, so that by 1940 only about 1.5 percent of Army and Navy personnel were black, the increasing influence of civil rights leaders prevented any such retrenchment after World War II. In 1948, President Truman issued Executive Order 9981 decreeing equality of treatment and opportunity for all in the armed forces “without regard to race, color, religion or

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace national origin.” In 1954 the secretary of defense announced that the last segregated unit in the armed forces had been abolished (MacGregor, 1981:473) and over the next quarter-century the Department of Defense gradually embraced a policy of integration, both in the sense of providing equal opportunity and of achieving racial balance. Participation rates do not begin to tell the full story of the integration of the military—integration on the job, in schools, in housing and in recreational facilities, well before such changes were effected in civilian society—yet they are illustrative. In 1955, during the Korean conflict, blacks constituted about 9 percent of enlisted personnel and 2 percent of officers. By the 1980s, these figures had increased dramatically. For example, by 1986 almost 30 percent of Army personnel were black, and although the largest numerical increases occurred in the lower grades and ranks, there have been very large increases over the last 30 years in the proportions of noncommissioned officers who are black. Table 2-1, reproduced from an earlier National Research Council report, shows the increases in black par TABLE 2-1 Black Participation in the U.S. Army as a Percentage of Officers and Enlisted Personnel, 1962-1986 Rank 1962 1972 1980 1986 Officers General — 0.7 5.4 7.0 Colonel 0.1 1.6 4.5 5.0 Lt. Colonel 0.9 5.1 4.9 4.4 Major 2.5 5.1 4.4 6.8 Captain 5.2 3.7 7.5 12.7 1st Lieutenant 4.3 2.9 10.2 14.4 2nd Lieutenant 2.3 2.5 10.4 11.4 Total 3.2 3.9 7.2 10.4 Enlisted Personnel Sergeant Major 2.9 7.0 20.5 30.9 Master Sergeant 5.5 14.0 25.3 24.4 Sergeant 1st Class 7.8 19.6 24.7 25.5 Staff Sergeant 12.7 23.9 23.9 35.7 Sergeant 15.7 16.6 31.2 36.0 Specialist 4 13.0 13.5 37.2 29.9 Private 1st Class 10.8 15.9 39.0 23.6 Private 13.3 17.9 37.0 22.2 Recruit 11.4 18.3 27.0 22.8 Total 12.3 17.0 32.5 29.6 SOURCE: Moskos and Butler (1987:27).

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace ticipation in the Army enlisted ranks and officer corps at four points between 1962 and 1986. Figure 2-1 presents the trend in the percentage of black enlisted personnel for all four Services since the institution of the all-volunteer force in 1973. The pattern of change is generally in an upward direction, although there has been little or no change in the proportion of enlisted blacks in the Air Force since 1982 or in the Marine Corps since 1986. The success of the military's equal opportunity policies and the general attractiveness of the military as an employer to blacks and other racial minorities is indicated by comparisons with the civilian labor force. According to the most recent figures available from the Department of Defense, the proportion of blacks and other racial minorities in the enlisted ranks was roughly twice their respective representation in the civilian labor force (see Table 2-2). This is a far cry from the days when blacks had to “fight for the right to fight.” So thoroughgoing was the change in policy, in fact, that the Vietnam War brought charges that blacks were doing more than their fair share of the fighting, a worry that also accompanied the creation of the all-volunteer FIGURE 2-1 Blacks as a percentage of active-duty enlisted members, by Service, fiscal 1973-1989. SOURCE: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Force Management and Personnel (1990).

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace TABLE 2-2 Race of Active-Duty Enlisted Personnel, by Service, and Civilian Labor Force 18-44 Years Old, Fiscal 1989 (Percentage) Race Army Navy Marine Corps Air Force DoD Civilians 18-44 Years Old White 62 77 72 78 71 85 Black 31 17 21 17 23 12 Other 7 6 7 4 6 3 Total 100 100 100 100 100 100 Columns may not add to totals due to rounding. SOURCE: Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Force, Management and Personnel (1990)./ force, and emerged again during the Persian Gulf War, in which, according to news reports, black soldiers made up 28 percent of the ground forces. If military accession policy has shown real progress with regard to the participation of American minorities, classification policy goals have been more difficult to achieve. The distribution of minorities and women across the spectrum of military career fields has tended to be skewed away from the highly technical jobs. Table 2-3, taken from a 1990 DoD report on the representation of subpopulations in the military, lists the major military occupational areas and shows the proportions of enlisted personnel in each. The report describes three of the occupational areas as generally employing low-level skills: the infantry and related specialties, craftsmen, and service and supply handlers. Medical and dental specialists, functional support and administration, and electricians/mechanical equipment repairers, which together make up about 44 percent of the enlisted force, are considered to include largely mid-level jobs. The high-skill, high-tech jobs fall mostly in the areas of electronic equipment repair and communications and intelligence and other allied specialties. From a career field perspective, the low- and semiskilled occupational areas have tended to be composed of proportionately high concentrations of minority and female personnel. Until the Truman executive order mandated equal opportunity, blacks were, with a few notable exceptions such as the Tuskegee Fighter Squadron, assigned mainly to unskilled occupations in service and supply. In the 1950s and 1960s, blacks moved up the skill ladder into infantry and administrative support jobs. For their part, women have traditionally served as nurses and clerk/secretaries, both considered semiskilled occupations. As the DoD report from which this discussion is largely drawn documents, 88 percent of female enlisted personnel were

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace boom. For example, a typical tactical fighter squadron now requires up to 25 different skills and as many as 300 maintenance people for deployment. Analysts point out that it took more than 40 years to go from vacuum tubes to transistors, and but a fraction of that time to move from transistors to microelectronics. It is likely that the pace of technological innovation will continue to accelerate, bringing a steady accretion of new systems on top of the old: the Air Force could well be operating aircraft like the B-2 Stealth bomber as well as the B-52, a 1950s vintage bomber, in the next century. Such a wide range of technology presents a challenge to the military personnel charged with maintaining the systems. Efforts to plan for the new high-tech requirements can be viewed from two perspectives: one is an engineering perspective, which focuses on designing weapons systems with the human operator in mind. The other perspective on the challenges of technology comes from the “people systems” side: all systems require that people be recruited, trained, and managed to operate and maintain them. A common approach from the engineering side, called technician transparency, is to build systems such that tasks are “deskilled.” Then technicians with a minimum of training can perform well via simplified troubleshooting techniques incorporated into the system—for example, replacing an entire module in an engine rather than repairing or replacing a smaller component part. But engineering design cannot provide all the answers. Even in a black box or fail safe system, troubleshooting tasks can become complex. And overall, the effect of advanced technology has been to increase the skill requirements of military jobs substantially. Similar changes are occurring in private industry. For example, General Motors predicts that 50 percent of its work force in the year 2000 will be categorized as skilled trades, compared with 16 percent in 1980. These changes are reflected in military training. In the Air Training Command, for example, there are presently over 7,900 technical training courses offered, of which 38 percent must be contracted out because of the advanced technology involved. In addition to formal training, all of the Services provide extensive on-the-job training—the Air Force estimates that at any given time over half of all airmen are being trained on the job. THE ROLE OF TESTING To human resource managers in the military, aptitude tests are an attractive gauge of applicant potential for a variety of reasons: the lack of other indicators in its relatively young and inexperienced target population, the large number of jobs that need to be filled, and the need, in wartime, to bring large numbers of men and women in and up to battle readiness in as little time as possible. No matter what the method of assessing job appli

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace cants, in any selection system that is more sophisticated than hiring all comers at the gate, the aim is to balance performance effectiveness and cost-effectiveness or efficiency. Building an effective work force depends on selecting workers who can do—or can be trained to do—the job and rejecting those who cannot; at the same time, efficient use of recruiting resources requires that the selection process not turn away workers who could have succeeded. This implies the use of some sort of standard or cutoff score above which candidates are accepted and below which they are not. The location of the cutoff score is in part a function of job requirements and the distribution of abilities needed to meet them for all jobs; it is also sensitive to supply and demand relationships in the job market (and, often, social policy considerations). When the supply of applicants is large relative to the employer's needs, selection standards can be stringent; but if the employer must hire, say, five out of every eight applicants, then pressure mounts to lower the entrance requirements—or to funnel more resources into recruitment in order to enlarge the applicant pool. The Evolution of Mental Aptitude Screening in the Military The history of testing in the military is a story of constant fluctuations in enlistment standards in response to changes in the recruiting environment. As recounted in Chapter 1, the use of psychological tests in the classification and assignment of military personnel can be traced, historically, to the Alpha and Beta tests administered to recruits and draftees at Army training camps during World War I. It was not until World War II, however, that such tests were also used to screen potential entrants into military service. The Services applied four screens to those designated as eligible for induction by the Selective Service: aptitude testing, psychiatric evaluation, physical examination, and an administrative check of moral character. The specific aptitude criteria varied with the course of the war. During the early phase of wartime mobilization, the standard for induction was defined as “the capacity of reading and writing the English language as prescribed for the fourth grade in grammar school.” Beginning in June 1943, the Army General Classification Test (AGCT), previously administered to all enlisted personnel after entry into service for purposes of classification, was used to screen out people with limited ability to absorb basic military training in a reasonable period of time. The minimum requirement was set at “a capacity above the lower three-fifths of Grade V,” the lowest of five categories on the AGCT (Eitelberg et al., 1984:Appendix A:9). This test was a simple multiple-choice test that included three types of items: vocabulary, arithmetic reasoning, and spatial relations. (For a detailed treatment of military screening, see Eitelberg et al., 1984.) In the face of intense wartime pressures to broaden the manpower pool

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace available for induction, the passing score on this test was set at a very low level, corresponding roughly to a percentile score of about 5.5. Following the end of World War II, mental aptitude screening was retained under separate tests administered by each Service. However, the passing scores were substantially increased, reflecting the reduced manpower needs of peacetime, as well as the higher aptitude requirements considered appropriate for a career-oriented regular military force. In 1948, the military draft was briefly reinstituted to meet the Army's increased manpower requirements during the Berlin crisis. The Selective Service Act of 1948 prescribed for the first time a statutory “mental standard” for induction, i.e., a standard score of 70 (equivalent to a percentile score of 13) on the AGCT. This precedent was retained when inductions were resumed on a large scale in late 1950, during the Korean War buildup. The Armed Forces Qualification Test (AFQT) had meanwhile been developed by a joint-Service working group, to serve as a common screening test for both draftees and first-time male Service enlistees. Patterned closely on the AGCT, its primary function continued to be to serve as a general measure of trainability. Following enlistment or induction, each Service administered its own more comprehensive aptitude test battery for purposes of classification and assignment. In 1951, in the face of a possible depletion of the Selective Service manpower pool, the Congress—in enacting an amended draft law (the Universal Military Training and Service Act of 1951)—adopted a number of measures to stretch the available draft manpower pool, including a reduction of the cutoff score on the AFQT from a percentile score of 13 to 10. At the same time, under a “Qualitative Distribution” directive from the secretary of defense, an identical AFQT mental standard was administratively prescribed for male first-time Service enlistments into all four Services. In addition, each Service was required to accept a prescribed minimum percentage of all of its new enlisted entrants from the lowest acceptable score grouping, Mental Group IV, which covered percentile scores from 10 through 30. This policy was designed to avoid having the Air Force and the Navy (which then relied solely on enlistments) skim the cream of the available manpower pool, resulting in a disproportionate concentration of the low-scoring group in the Army's inductee pool. Under this directive, the AFQT thus became a tool for broad qualitative allocation of manpower among the Services, in addition to its primary use as a screening measure. Following termination of the Korean War in 1953, active-duty military strengths were reduced from a peak of more than 3 1/2 million in 1952 to less than 2 1/2 million by 1960. Although the draft was retained throughout this period, draft calls were sharply reduced, from more than 1/2 million in fiscal 1953 to only 60,000 by fiscal 1961. In the face of these trends, and of accumulating evidence concerning difficulties in training and utilization

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace of personnel with low test scores, Service pressures mounted for relief from the statutory and administrative constraints on the mental standards for enlistment. Beginning in 1955, the Department of Defense authorized higher standards for regular enlistees than for draftees and progressively reduced the Group IV enlistment quotas. In 1958, the draft law was again modified to permit increases in the inductee minimum mental standards as well. During the succeeding years, minimum mental standards were effectively raised by all Services through a number of procedures. The first was a simple increase in the operational passing scores on the AFQT, to as high as 31 in some Services. A further refinement was a requirement that individuals who scored in the Mental Group IV range and who attained a minimum passing score (e.g., AFQT 21) were also required to qualify on supplemental aptitude test batteries previously administered only following entry into service. In addition, higher mental test scores were prescribed for non–high school graduates than for applicants with high school diplomas, based on considerable research evidence that the former were much poorer risks, in terms of disciplinary problems and other difficulties leading to premature discharge from service. This upward drift in mental standards was reversed, however, following the large-scale commitment of U.S. troops in Vietnam, beginning in 1965. Draft calls again rose sharply, averaging more than 300,000 per year in the second half of the decade. These calls, and accompanying increases in draft-induced enlistments, were met from a relatively large manpower pool, consisting of young men born in the initial years of the post–World War II baby boom. As a result, manpower supply stringencies never became as critical a consideration in shaping manpower procurement policy as during the Korean War period. Nevertheless, considerations of fairness (as then perceived) and related social policy concerns dictated that mental standards be substantially reduced. One of the social policy considerations was the perception by top administration officials, including Secretary of Defense McNamara, that a period of military service and training would be beneficial to many underprivileged youth in development of needed skills, which would help them in subsequent civilian job careers. These considerations (as well as expressed skepticism regarding the validity of the mental aptitude tests as predictors of military job performance—rather than training), resulted in initiation by Secretary McNamara, in October 1966, of a program identified as Project 100,000. The program provided for a carefully controlled reduction of the prevailing standards of induction and enlistment, so that 100,000 men would be accepted annually who would not have previously qualified for service. High school graduates who scored as low as AFQT 10 and non–high school graduates as low as AFQT 21 were accepted without further testing. Only non–high school graduates scoring between AFQT 10 and 20 were subject

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace to supplemental testing. The system of mental group quotas that had been discontinued in the late 1950s was also reinstituted, with an objective of procuring over 22 percent of total first-time Service enlisted entrants from the Mental Group IV category during the period fiscal 1967-1970. Project 100,000 continued through 1971, when it was terminated by congressional action. In reaction to the extreme unpopularity of the war in Vietnam, the draft was abolished in 1973. The administration's commitment to meet future peacetime military personnel needs through volunteer programs was accompanied by a fundamental shift in DoD policies affecting enlistment standards. In the new all-volunteer force (AVF) environment, the policy adopted was to decentralize the authority to establish and revise mental screening standards. In setting their minimum qualification standards, each of the Services experimented with a combination of test scores and educational standards. It soon became common practice for the Services to fine-tune their standards to changing recruiting conditions, with operational cutoff scores being modified on a month-to-month basis, in combination with changing quotas for high school and non –high school graduates. As a consequence, the de facto enlistment standards during favorable recruiting periods—and the 1980s were very favorable indeed—have tended to be much higher than the official minimum standards. Another significant policy response to the all-volunteer force has been the increased importance of enlistment programs under which qualified applicants are guaranteed specific occupational training and job assignment. Although it varies by Service, a majority of today's volunteers sign an enlistment contract that specifies their job choice. In the early years of the all-volunteer force, mandatory use of the AFQT for screening enlisted personnel was discontinued, and each Service was authorized to choose its own enlistment screening criteria. However, in 1976, the ASVAB was officially adopted as a combined enlistment and classification test for all four Services. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery The ASVAB was developed as part of the DoD Student Testing Program in the late 1960s. It was originally intended for use in high schools to stimulate interest in military career opportunities and to provide guidance to students, counselors, and military recruiters in making academic and career decisions. And it continues to play that role. A form of the ASVAB is administered to more than 1.3 million students annually in approximately 14,000 high schools, in addition to its use in screening about 1 million young people who express an interest in military service and classifying those who actually enlist.

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace The ASVAB consists of 10 separately timed subtests that are combined in various ways to form the Armed Forces Qualification Test for enlistment screening and Service-defined area aptitude composites for job assignment. The ten subtests are: Paragraph Comprehension (PC) Arithmetic Reasoning (AR) Word Knowledge (WK) Mathematical Knowledge (MK) General Science (GS) Numerical Operations (NO) Coding Speed (CS) Auto and Shop Information (AS) Mechanical Comprehension (MC) Electronics Information (EI) The first four subtests—PC, AR, WK, and MK—make up the current AFQT. As was traditionally the case, this composite is considered a general measure of trainability. The Service-specific composites used to determine eligibility for military technical training schools and subsequent job assignment are presented in Table 2-4. The number of composites that were in use as of 1987 ranged from 4 in the Marine Corps to 10 in the Navy. All of the Services have composites labeled mechanical; clerical or administrative; electronics; and general but, except for electronics, the subtests differ somewhat for similarly named composites (Waters et. al., 1987). The entire battery of tests that makes up the ASVAB has about 334 multiple-choice items and requires three hours to administer. Until the last decade, the aptitude levels of military recruits were established with reference to a norming sample representing all men serving in the armed forces during 1944 (Uhlaner and Bolanovich, 1952). In 1980, DoD, in cooperation with the Department of Labor, undertook a study called the Profile of American Youth (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Manpower, Reserve Affairs, and Logistics, 1982a) to assess the vocational aptitudes of a nationally representative sample of young people and to develop current norms for the ASVAB. Subsequent forms of the ASVAB have been calibrated to this 1980 youth population, making it the only vocational aptitude battery with nationally representative norms. The ASVAB norms are based on a sample of 9,173 people between the ages of 18 and 23 who were part of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth Labor Force Behavior. The sample included 4,550 men and 4,623 women and contained youth from rural as well as urban areas and from all major census regions. Certain groups—blacks, Hispanics, and economically disadvantaged whites—were oversampled to allow more precise analysis

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace TABLE 2-4 Current ASVAB Composites Used for Classification by the Services Army Navy Marine Corps Air Force Component Subtests — General Technical — General AR + WK +PC — — General Technical — AR + WK + PC + MC Electronics Electronics Electronics Repair Electronics AR + GS + MK + EI Clerical — — — AR + MK + WK + PC — Clerical — Administrative NO + WK + PC + CS — — Clerical — MK + WK + PC + CS Motor Maintenance — — — NO + AS + MC + EI — Mechanical — — AS + WK + PC + MC — — Mechanical Maintenance — AR + AS + MC + EI — — — Mechanical GS + 2AS + MC Combat — — — AR + CS + AS + MC Field Artillery — — — AR + CS + MK + MC Operators/Food — — — NO + WK + PC + MC + AS Surveillance/Communications — — — AR + AS + MC + WK + PC — Basic Electricity/Electronics — — AR + GS + 2MK Skilled Technical — — — GS + WK + PC + MC + MK — Engineering — — AS + MK

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace General — — — GS + AS + MK + EI Maintenance — Machinery Repairmen — — AR + AS + MC — Submarine — — AR + WK + PC + MC — Communications Technician — — AR + WK + PC + CS + NO — Hospitalman — — GS + WK + PC + MK SOURCE: Waters et al. (1987). of groups of particular salience for manpower policy (Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense—Manpower, Reserve Affairs, and Logistics, 1982a). This contemporary normative data is useful to policy makers in interpreting the test scores of recruits. In 1981, for example, the cohort entering military service scored somewhat higher on the AFQT composite than did the norming sample representative of the general youth population. ENLISTMENT STANDARDS AND QUALITY GOALS The Contemporary System As presently structured, the operation of the military recruitment, selection, and classification system takes place within the parameters defined by enlistment standards and quality goals. Enlistment standards provide the basic filtering or gatekeeping function for military entry. The standards include minimum scores on mental and physical tests, as well as a background check for arrest record, drug use, and so on. The mental qualifications of applicants are determined by scores on the AFQT subtests of the ASVAB and by high school graduation status. The single most important determinant of eligibility in the enlisted ranks is an applicant's score on the AFQT. For policy purposes, the AFQT score scale is divided into five categories (formerly called Mental Groups), as shown in Table 2-5. Service quality goals are determined annually with reference to these categories and pre

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace TABLE 2-5 AFQT Score Scale AFQT Category Percentile Score Population Distributiona I 93-99 8 II 65-92 28 III 31-64 34 IV 10-30 21 V 1-9 9 NOTE: Category III is frequently subdivided into IIIA (50-64) and IIIB (31-49). a1980 reference population sented in a report to Congress in preparation for appropriations hearings. Recruits with scores in Categories I through IIIA—that is, at the 50th percentile and above, are considered to be “high quality.” The current enlistment standards and quality goals imposed by Congress for the entire armed forces are as follows. The legislated minimum enlistment standard for high school graduates is an AFQT score of 10; in other words, those with scores in Category V are not eligible for military service. They represent about 9 percent of the youth population. Since some military occupational specialties are much more difficult than others, and the more difficult jobs will be beyond the capabilities of lower-scoring recruits, it is necessary to enlist people in the upper score ranges. Current legislation requires that no more than 20 percent of enlistees be drawn from Category IV (score range 10-30). This forces at least 80 percent of the distribution of enlistees to fall within Categories I through III. During the past decade this goal has been met; indeed, the distribution of talent among service recruits roughly approximates the available talent in the 18- to 23-year-old cohort, although the Services draw slightly more from Category III, slightly less from Category IV, and, of course, none from Category V (Waters et al., 1987). For their part, the Services would prefer to recruit the most talented people possible. Each Service has set formal enlistment standards that are well above the legislated minimum, and the recruiting climate for most of the 1980s permitted operational standards that far exceeded the formal ones. At the Service level, technical school proponents are important players in the policy process. Proponents naturally want the most highly qualified applicants that they can get for their specialties. Highly qualified recruits are easily and quickly trained and are likely to complete the course successfully. Poorly qualified recruits are more likely to require more intensive training or to fail the course. These differences in trainability are likely to translate

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace into similar differences in performance on the job. Moreover, marginally qualified recruits are less versatile; they can be placed in fewer of the positions within an occupational specialty. Proponents want the minimum aptitude standards for their specialties to be set so that a high percentage (usually 90 percent) of recruits will successfully complete technical training (Eitelberg, 1988). But the pass rate is not the only check on quality. Reporting mechanisms exist between the field and the school so that the proponents are informed if new batches of recruits are not performing up to standard as they move through the first term of enlistment, or if each cohort does not include enough people who can take on the more complex responsibilities of the job. Recruiters report how successful they have been in meeting recruiting quality goals. The entire process of monitoring, reporting, and negotiation is overseen by Service headquarters accession policy staff, who make the final decisions about formal enlistment standards. The actual operational standards for each job are adjusted, within the limits set by the formal entrance requirements, in response to market forces. In an especially good recruiting year, entrance requirements can be tightened. In 1984, for example, 90 percent of new Army recruits were in AFQT Categories I through III, compared with 69 percent in 1981. In the same two years, the Marine Corps recruited 95 and 80 percent high school graduates, respectively. In addition to market forces, the quality of recruits assigned to a given job depends to some extent on the competitive interplay of jobs in the job allocation system and to some extent on the candidates' preferences. How Much Quality is Enough? If the natural impulse of the proponent is to seek to get the most highly qualified recruits possible, it is also true that there is a considerable cost in setting high standards and ambitious quality goals. Intensive recruiting effort is needed in order to get enough recruits who score in Categories I to IIIA, the accepted definition of high quality. In a sense, Congress functions as a board of directors for the Department of Defense; its control over recruiting budgets and other spending for military personnel gives it an important voice in manpower policy. The Services seek recruiting budgets that will extend their ability to attract the best available youth. Congress, in the role of management, seeks prudent use of resources and wishes to appropriate only enough funds to guarantee an adequate flow of acceptable candidates. In order to justify their budget requests to Congress, the Services report their recent recruiting experience and their quality goals for the upcoming year in terms of numbers of recruits needed in various AFQT categories. Service-wide goals are presumably amalgams of the separate quality goals

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Performance Assessment for the Workplace for each job, which depend in turn on the minimum standards and the aptitude distribution desired. Whether their quality goals are realistic and necessary, as the Services maintain, or too high, as Congress often claims, has been difficult to ascertain. One of the major weaknesses of DoD's position is that quality requirements have been related to the aptitude of recruits rather than to realized on-the-job performance. That is, the discussion has been cast in terms of scores on the AFQT—Service X needs this level of funding in order to attract so many recruits in Categories I through IIIA—without being able to show empirically what this ability distribution means in terms of performance gains. The AFQT categories do not denote levels of job mastery and, indeed, the link from recruit quality to job performance has been largely unknown. In the economic climate of the 1980s, the old “more is better” way of doing business was no longer credible. As the decade progressed, Congress became increasingly insistent in asking: How much quality is enough? DoD launched the Joint-Service Job Performance Measurement/Enlistment Standards Project to provide the data base and the methodologies necessary to provide more explicit, scientifically defensible answers to that question.