Theoretical Background
Rationale and Hypotheses
The Interactive Model


The Specific Propensity Model
The Interactive Model




The Wild Card Effect and Military Retention:
Latent Social Identities in an
Interactive Organizational Commitment Model


In this continued era of military force draw down and stabilization, retention of the militaryís professional core of officers and non-commissioned officers remains a special emphasis item at the highest levels. In 2000, retention numbers for all branches of the Armed Services, with the exception of the Air Force, have improved, according to Vice Admiral P.A. Tracy, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Military Personnel Policy (Garamone, 2000). Despite the encouraging trends, policymakers continue to stress retention programs, especially among specialized career fields.

Eye-opening Statistics

The 1999 Active Duty Military Personnel Survey (Defense Manpower Data Center, 1999) studied varied issues to include satisfaction with the military way of life, reasons for staying or leaving, perception of leadership, and morale. Junior and mid-grade enlisted personnel comprise 69 percent of the entire active duty population. Of those, only about 42 percent reported being satisfied or very satisfied with the military way of life. Thirty-eight percent of the entire population said that basic pay would be the main reason for leaving the military. Across the four Services, an average of 36.7 percent reported being dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the quality of leadership. A vast majority of members think total compensation (65 percent) and amount of family/personal time (75 percent) is better in the civilian world than in the military.

On the surface, these statistics would indicate a force eager to leave the military. However, only a fraction actually does leave. This suggests that there must be a host of interrelated variables keeping members in service. The 1999 survey addressed many of these variables including economic security, job security, and retirement pay.

The Interactive Commitment Model

This project addresses retention by suggesting an original model that examines the phenomenon from an organizational commitment perspective. It incorporates a comprehensive review of existing organizational research theories, and offers a synthesis of these theories to form new constructs. The model predicts characteristics of an organization based on commitment, and further predicts the tendency or propensity of individuals within that organization to leave or remain. What is unique about the model is that it shows how interrelated variables can "pull" a member in any direction making them more or less likely to commit. With this, policymakers can better design and more accurately target retention messages to the right audiences.

The Wild Card

The new constructs of organizational commitment used by the authors can be singularly termed as the "wild card" effect. Prior research has looked at organizational commitment in terms of individualsí propensity to commit, but there has been disagreement about how to interpret and measure propensity. The authors theorize that propensity to commit relates to the individualís and organizationís latent identity. Furthermore, when the individualís latent identity is plotted over that of the organization, it is possible to better predict the propensity of the individual to commit to the organization. This is the "wild card" effect.

Next page


DoD Short Course in Communication
Class 01A
December 7, 2000