The lure of civilian living may be pulling key service members out of the military, according to a new General Accounting Office report. The report, "Military Personnel: Perceptions of Retention-Critical Personnel Are Similar to Those of Other Enlisted Personnel" (GAO-01-785
), is the latest GAO attempt to study the factors that drive retention decisions in the military. In previous reports, GAO has urged the Pentagon to target retention incentives at employees who work in occupations critical to defense readiness. Such "retention-critical" employees often leave the military because they have numerous job opportunities in the civilian workforce, according to GAO. "Personnel in retention-critical occupations are not being 'pushed out' of the military by their experiences at a greater rate than other enlisted personnel," said GAO. "Rather, to the extent they possess marketable skills, it is more likely they are being 'pulled out' of the military by more attractive civilian opportunities." GAO based its findings on the 1999 Survey of Active Duty Personnel. Respondents in critical occupations such as electronic equipment repair, communication and intelligence, and mechanical equipment repair were as satisfied with military life as other personnel, GAO found. While these findings show that critical service members are not suffering from a morale crisis, many of these employees are optimistic about job opportunities in the civilian world, according to GAO. "To the extent they have marketable skills, the perceptions [of the civilian world] of those in retention-critical occupations were equally or more positive than other enlisted personnel," concluded GAO. The Defense Department agreed with GAO's findings.