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     Retention is currently a serious problem in all the military services. As we will establish, the retention problem deserves further study and decisive action by leadership of all branches of military service. Retention is defined by the Department of Defense as the number of people in the military services, eligible to re-enlist, who choose to remain on active duty. Generally the military services have been able to meet retention goals with slight fluctuations. The lowest retention in the last three decades occurred in the early 1970s as a result of Vietnam War downsizing. Retention from 1993 through 1996 has been consistent in the 80th percentile. However, since 1997 a noticeable drop in retention levels has occurred, with a continuing downward trend (Cohen, 1998).
     According to Secretary of the Air Force, F. Whitten Peters (Air Force News, 1998), the severity of the problem hit home during a recent visit to Moody AFB, Georgia, in August 1998. Forty  people were coming up for a reenlistment in their security forces unit.  Out of those, only two planned to reenlist. Data indicates this trend is being repeated across all the military services, not just deployed personnel, but for those members left behind as well. 
     A literature review of relevant material regarding military retention is conducted, using the theories of organizational assimilation theory, cognitive dissonance in persuasion, and mass communication media richness theory, to form an approach toward answering our research questions and providing research methods to implement and test possible solutions. The research team will also discuss projected results and the implications for public affairs and future theory building.

Retention: Creating Choice Through Dissonance

     A military does not exist without people. However, today’s all-volunteer force is experiencing a decline in service member retention, which directly impacts the military’s ability to do its job. Retention is defined as the number of people in the military eligible to reenlist, who choose to remain on active duty (Pang, 1998). This paper will discuss the retention problem for the military and the reasons service members leave or stay. The impact of this problem has a broad national scope that includes national security, force readiness, and military quality of life. Using military service retention levels as the measured dependent variable, this study will manipulate the independent variable, which is the amount of information and choices available to military service members.


     The military has generally been able to meet retention goals with slight fluctuations. The lowest retention occurred in the early 1970s (from the downsizing resulting from the end of the Vietnam War), and was consistent from 1993 through 1996. A noticeable drop in retention levels occurred in 1997, and there is a continuing downward trend, according to DoD statistics (Cohen, 1998). 
     Army retention rates for Fiscal Years 1993 through 1996 remained consistent at slightly more than 80 percent. The Navy retention rate rose to 85 from 1993 through 1996. The Marine Corps retention rate remained fairly consistent at 83 percent for FYs 1995 and 1996. The Air Force retained 89 percent of eligible personnel in FY 1996 (up 3 percentage points from FY 1995) (Cohen, 1998). Additionally, lack of retention is also expensive. “Based on a General Accounting Office estimate, it costs taxpayers more than $20,000 to replace each individual who leaves the military service prematurely” (Pang, 1997).
     By relating relevant communication theory to the problem of retention, this study 
provides an alternative solution to limit the exodus of military service members. A theoretical framework is proposed through which retention issues will be addressed. Specifically, the frame offers a public affairs approach to inform military members, eligible to leave the service, of career choices difficult to refuse, and to consider the military as a viable alternative. 
     A literature review was conducted of relevant material regarding military retention, using the theories of organizational assimilation theory, cognitive dissonance in persuasion, and mass communication media richness theory, to form a two-stage approach toward answering our research questions and providing methods to implement, test and evaluate possible solutions. We will also discuss projected results and the implications for public affairs and future theory building.

Statement of the Problem

     The U.S. military faces a retention crisis resulting from extensive change. The changes include downsizing or reengineering, loss of benefits and rewards, and the impact of a strong economy and low unemployment. Retaining first term and second term service members is a continuing challenge, as well as retaining the expertise and corporate knowledge of careerists. 
     Only 69 percent of second-term enlisted members are choosing to reenlist, according to Secretary of the Air Force, F. Whitten Peters (Air Force News, 1998). The Air Force has set its goal at 75 percent to sustain appropriate experience levels. Peters said that although some believe a strong economy is the reason why people are getting out of the service, he feels retention is directly related to deployment rates.
     The key underlying issue related to retention is PERSTEMPO, defined as the time service members spend away from the home station. Increased time away from home, be it deployed or working longer hours, places stress on the members deployed, the members left behind who shoulder the increased workload, and their families. The services work to balance the needs for training, exercises, and peacetime operations, with the individual needs of the service members for a "stable and predictable tempo level." Service members want to serve their country, but they also want a predictable tempo level and are obviously exiting the service when their complaints are not heard (Cohen, 1998). 
     The Navy is currently exceeding budgeted deployed ship OPTEMPO (Operations Tempo or number of operations conducted) of 51 days per quarter due to operations and the heightened threat condition in ports in the Arabian Gulf, forcing ships to stay at sea. The current COMFIFTHFLT OPTEMPO is at 78 days per quarter. “Sailors don’t mind working hard at the front lines to support U.S. vital interests, but when they see us continually robbing the rest of the force to do it, they wonder where the health of their Navy is heading,” stated Admiral Archie Clemins, Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet (1999).
     Air Force Secretary Peters (1998) said the severity of the problem hit home during a recent visit to Moody AFB, Georgia, in August 1998. “They have 40 people coming up for a reenlistment in their security forces unit. Out of those, only 2 plan to reenlist.” Peters stated that most of the service members had been deployed more than 120 days, many for more than 160 days. He stated that when you reach that kind of OPSTEMPO, no matter how much you like your job, the impact on family and other goals is just too difficult. 
     This trend is being repeated across all the services according to Department of Defense statistics. It affects not only deployed personnel, but those members left behind as well. This trend is precipitated by a lack of attractive alternatives at the critical point when service members are deciding whether to stay in the military, or to leave. One military member, an Air Force staff sergeant, said that constant deployments are not only hard for those deployed, but for those left behind. During the deployments, the extended 12-hour days take their toll. 
     Military public affairs staffs can help provide service members with accurate updates on military benefits and the efforts being made to reestablish previously existing benefits. Public Affairs Officers can inform the internal community of training programs to improve retention. Public affairs can be a critical tool in improving retention, if used at the strategic planning stages of the program. In order to do so, relevant communication theories will be reviewed and applied to the retention problem.

Review of Literature

Organizational Assimilation

     The full implications of the organizational dynamic called retention are rooted in the theory of organizational assimilation (Infante, et al, 1997).  "Organizational assimilation refers to those ongoing behavioral and cognitive processes by which individuals join and become integrated into organizations," (Miller & Jablin, 1990). The process of assimilation consists of explicit and implicit attempts by organizations to influence or socialize their employees, and employees attempts to influence their organizations. 
     Military retention is a stage of organizational assimilation. Organizational assimilation affects military members as they become part of the organizational in three states: anticipatory socialization (pre-organization entry or predisposition), organizational or entry assimilation, and exit from the organization. Miller and Jablin (1990) expanded the original three stages into a four-stage model.
     The expanded assimilation model includes the stages of vocational socialization (predisposition), anticipatory socialization (Job seeking and recruiting), the encounter stage (entry assimilation), and metamorphosis (organizational and career socialization). The military member goes through vocational anticipatory socialization in the recruiting stage. 
     During the entry assimilation and metamorphosis (career) stages the new military member will determine whether or not he or she will continue. The member becomes formally affiliated with the military in the entry assimilation and metamorphosis stages. Retention problems are encountered in this stage. 
     It is important to impact these stages because network ties (assimilation) must be established to maintain retention. According to a 1992 study, strong network ties (for ex: cultural or core values, camaraderie, etc.) are stabilizing forces for group composition, while weak ties are destabilizing (McPherson, Popielarz & Drobnic, 1992). The research team seeks to reinforce the member’s network ties and predisposition to stay in the military during the entry assimilation and metamorphosis (career) stages.
     Infante (1997) states that organizations reinforce certain attitudes, skills, and values that the organization wants the individual to retain. This communication reinforcement is important because, “The probability that members will enter or leave the group depends upon the number and strength of social network ties that connect group members to each other and to nonmembers” (McPherson, et al., 1992).
     To better understand how to retain employees, the research team sought research literature explaining why employees leave organizations. Hirschman’s (1970) seminal work in the field of organizational culture discusses the variables of exit (departing the organization), voice (airing grievances) and loyalty (staying with the organization). According to Hirschman, there are probably no organizations that are wholly immune to either exit or voice (p. 121). An alternative or complementary way of strengthening voice for service members can be done directly by increasing the rewards of voice, as well as indirectly, by raising the cost of exit” (p. 123). The rewards of voice can be opportunities for feedback or a variety of choices to choose from. 
     Because military retention is a problem (Pang, 1997) the team chose to look at other foundational factors that could impact retention in order to identify key messages needed in the retention assimilation process. One possible negative retention factor could be in the area of organizational decline. Decline is defined as decreasing number of employees or financial resources within the organization. In the military, many of the retention problems began when funding was cut. Decline produces dysfunctional consequences at individual and organizational levels. The literature identifies dysfunctional problems as increases in conflict, secrecy, rigidity, centralization, formalization, scapegoating and conservatism; lower morale and innovativeness, participation, leader influence and long-term planning (Whetten, 1987).
     Additionally, increases in workforce political factions severely limit the organization’s ability to engage in coordinated efforts and the factions may increase dramatically as the cycles of management fads such as reengineering increase. Factions within the military organization can include the different services themselves, as each service competes for the same funding, people (recruiting), and resources. 
     But even in civilian organizations, according to Boje, et al. (1997), stories of worker stress, loss of corporate morale, impact on family life, more work for the same pay, short-term gains at the expense of long-term problems, and the exit of valuable talent, are often omitted. The organization refuses to acknowledge the problems exist. The military retention problem also falls into this category.
     Many of the issues associated with decline and military retention have been identified in the pilot survey. Any plan developed by public affairs leadership addressing the retention problem should understand the process of organizational assimilation and incorporate key retention messages as well as questions and answers to handle deal with possible dysfunctional problems identified within the services.

Persuasion Theory – Cognitive Dissonance

     Cognitive dissonance theory assumes that two beliefs are related either in a state of consonance or dissonance.  A state of consonance is characterized by consistency. Dissonance is marked by inconsistency or discomfort. A central tenet of the theory is: the more mental discomfort (dissonance) that exists, the more a person is motivated to change something to make things comfortable (Festinger, 1957). The dissonance proposed here is the introduction of information that causes the service member to reevaluate his or her attitudes regarding military benefits, rewards, work level and service culture in such a way that they are persuaded that the benefits of staying in the military are as attractive as the benefits of exiting. 

Cognitive Dissonance in Persuasion

     Individuals are persuaded more by messages arguing in a direction that increases consistency and are more resistant to those arguing in a direction that decreases consistency.  The more choice a person feels he or she has in response to pressures to engage in an unpleasant behavior, the greater the magnitude of dissonance experienced. Consequently, the more a person will tend to reduce discrepancies between engaging in that behavior and his or her attitude toward it (Rosenberg, Hovland, McGuire, Abelson & Brehm, 1960). Cognitive dissonance, as related to persuasion, is defined as working to cause an individual to experience dissonance, and then to use that dissonance as a opportunity to offer a proposal that reduces the dissonance (Infante et. al. 1997). 

Cognitive Dissonance in Decision Making

     Researchers suggest that subjective feelings of choice are central to the creation of dissonance and the consequent tendency to change attitudes (Rosenberg, Hovland, McGuire, Abelson & Brehm, 1960). Hirschman (1970) in addressing ways to increase organization retention, listed reducing the cost of employee feedback and raising the cost of exiting the organization. The overall aim of introducing dissonance in this study is to raise the cost of exiting the military; that is, to change existing feelings from "It is not worth it to stay," to "It is not worth it to leave." 
     The research team proposes to first create dissonance in service members by presenting the two choices as equally attractive. Dissonance, for the purposes of this study, is considered a positive aspect of individual decision making. Discomfort is typically perceived as negative, but the study takes the perspective of cognitive dissonance’s positive effects. Researchers distinguish three types of decisions (Festinger, 1957): 
   (1) Preference.  These decisions were characterized by a clear preference for one of the alternatives over the other.  The decisions were important but usually there was not great conflict.  The preferred alternative was sufficiently preferred so that the choice was easily made.
   (2) Conflict.  These decisions were characterized by considerable difficulty because the alternatives were nearly equal in attractiveness. The decision comes slowly and with effort.  The choice may be attended with doubt and a disagreeable feeling as opposed to assurance and satisfaction; there may even sometimes occur a tendency to wish afterwards that the other alternative had been chosen.
   (3) Indifference. These decisions are characterized by lack of clear preference for one alternative over the other and also by indifference about the whole matter (Festinger, 1957).  The decision is highly unimportant for the subject of this study.
     The study's goal is to present staying in the military as an equally attractive alternative to leaving, thus offering a viable alternative to cognitive conflict. This conflict introduces dissonance through the discomfort of having to choose between two equally attractive alternatives. Infante et al. (1997) identifies four dissonance producing situations: (1) choice between equally attractive alternatives (2) forced compliance  (3) discrepant information and (4) discrepant source. In the retention study, the research team used only #1 (choice) as a way to introduce dissonance. However, the other three dissonance-producing situations are also areas that deserve further study.

Reducing Cognitive Dissonance

     To reduce dissonance the research team must move service members from the conflict decision to preference decision. The research team must expose service members to information that makes staying in a clear preference over leaving. The information must present the choice to reenlist as an important, but easy one. That information would be the announcement that the previously mentioned proposals have been adopted and are working; that is, the promise has been kept. (See Figure #1).
     Communication channels are key in targeting information, with special emphasis placed on a person to person approach in which retention counselors talk to members eligible to reenlist. This idea is further explicated through analysis of media richness theory.

Media Richness Theory

     Carlson and Zmud (1999) describe media richness as a communication channel’s ability to convey messages that are rich with information. As the team explored the idea of improving retention in the military, the literature noted that media richness theory stresses it is not only important to pay attention to what message is delivered (to service members) but also how the messages are delivered. The research team selected media richness as one of the theoretical approaches because the theory provides a clear understanding of the importance of clear, rich information. The use of this theory focuses on the idea of communicating rich information to all service members, with a goal of keeping them informed on how they are being taken care of in the military today and what the plan is to take care of them tomorrow. 
      According to Daft and Lengel (1984), media richness theory describes organizational communication channels as possessing a set of objective characteristics that determine each channel’s capacity to carry rich information. Rich information is better at reducing equivocality in a message receiver. All channels of communication, such as telephone, regular mail, and e-mail, have qualities that lead to distinct, objective richness levels. 
     Based on the theory, messages should be communicated on channels with appropriate media richness levels.  Messages that are delivered on channels that are not appropriate to the equivocality of the situation and the level of rich information desired may be misinterpreted by the intended receiver or ineffective (Trevino, Lengel, & Daft, 1987). 
     To help avoid misinterpretation of the message, the team suggests using face-to-face delivery for much of the message delivery that is proposed in this study.  Face to face delivery ranks at the top as far as level of media richness.  The level of richness is based on the idea that face to face communication increases the chance for immediate feedback and the message can be tailored or designed to meet the needs of a specific target audience (O’Hair, 1999).  This concept will come into play as messages are tailored to meet the needs of both enlisted and officers.
     While this is the ideal, using public affairs publication knowledge to ensure the retention messages receive the widest distribution is also important. Since the target audience is large in number and located around the world, the localization of retention messages for publication, sent via email and other electronic modes of communication are additional approaches to the retention problem.

Rationale and Research Questions

     Because of the broad nature and scope of the military retention problem, all the military services are seeking methods or programs to address and improve retention levels. The research team addressed the research questions by designing a two-part study. Study I is necessary to determine specific issues unique to the installation, because what is important to an air wing, would be different from what is important to a ground force command. In Study I, a survey was conducted consisting of a convenience sample of military service members eligible to leave the military, individuals who recently left the military and members who have decided to stay. 
     Study I was developed on the basis of the following research questions: 
          1. Why are military members leaving the services in higher numbers now than in the past five years?
          2. Why do military members stay in the service? 
          3. How has the military changed to the extent that it has affected retention?
     Initially, six factors were chosen for Study I, based on previous Department of Defense survey data, which included: Manning, OPSTEMPO, pay, health benefits, education opportunities and retirement benefits. Study II uses the information obtained in Study I to localize and target key retention messages towards specific area audiences. Following a detailed description of Study I, a design for Study II will be discussed. 



     The research team approached the retention issue through a preliminary convenience sample of military service members. The participants in the retention study were service members eligible to remain on active duty or leave the service or individuals who recently left the military. In an initial convenience sample, 31 U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army service members were surveyed regarding their reasons for staying or leaving the service. The purpose of this small survey was to obtain current data to reinforce the already existing 1998 data provided by the Department of Defense. 
     Of the participants, 23 were male and 8 female; with 11 officers and 20 enlisted members serving on active duty for an average of 10.4 years (a range of 3 years to 21 years), with an average age of 32.5 (ranging from 22 to 41 years old). While no Marines participated, the survey reflected the demographics in the overall military population in that enlisted numbers are considerably larger than the officer corps, and the number of women is about one-third of the total number of men in the military services. The factors also matched those given in DoD retention surveys, which covered all the services in a much larger sample (Annual Defense Report, 1996). 


     In Study I a survey (see Appendix A) was drafted to provide data that answers the research questions. The results of this analysis (see Summary of Statistics) were collected via the survey, which included a 5 point-linear scale from 'No affect' to 'Major affect'. Responses were obtained from three of the military services (Air Force, Navy and Army) across a broad range of grades (E3-E8 and O2-O4), which reflects the first-term enlistees and careerists. 
     Seven factors were used to assess the participants reasons for leaving or staying in the military which included: Manning, OPTEMPO, education opportunities, health care, retirement benefits, pay and other factors such as duty to country. The survey was faxed and emailed to various bases within the U.S. and Germany, based on the research team's contacts at current duty stations.

                                    Summary of Statistics

Results                                                             (Range)
                                                        Standard    Minimum   Maximum
Factors                 Mean     Mode    Deviation    Response   Response
1) Manning            2.1          1          1.56                1                5
2) OPSTEMPO    2.4          1          1.60                1                5 
3) Education          2.9          1          1.45                1                5
4) Health Care       3.5          4          1.49                1                5
5) Retirement         3.7          4          1.30                1                5
6) Pay                    3.7          4,5       1.42                1                5

     Pay, health care and retirement benefits were service members number one considerations in making decisions to leave or stay. This somewhat contradicts the frequent reference by leadership towards manning and OPSTEMPO as key considerations for leaving the military or staying. Respondents who stayed in the military stated their reasons were: job security and training, financial security, education and travel opportunities. Service members leaving the military related their reasons for leaving with suggestions to retain people in the future: Better pay X3, merit-based promotion, tax exclusion, improved retirement benefits, and decreased working hours. Officers often noted better leadership was needed as well. Written comments included: "Pay is not as good as it could be for as many hours you work." 
"The [pay] imbalance is awful. I can get an eight hour a day, five day a week [job], and make more than I am now."
"We are always too busy to get an education. You do not have time to take any long courses."
" I would like to have a life."

Study II - Analysis and Discussion

     Based on the retention data collected in Study I, the research team recommends testing the effect/implication of introducing cognitive dissonance through increased relevant information.  Study II is designed to introduce cognitive dissonance as a method of introducing choice into their decision-making process. Study II is based on the following proposed hypothesis: By increasing dissonance through key retention messages and perceived choices (to service members eligible to leave the military), retention levels will improve.
     The research design includes the use of a control installation that will not have cognitive dissonance introduced.  The prediction is that the control base will stay at the same retention level or decrease. Realistically the process of introducing cognitive dissonance will be an ongoing process that begins early in the service member’s career and continues throughout the member’s time served. Based on the criteria discovered in Study I, key retention messages are tailored for the target audience in Study II. The criteria helps to develop the independent variable (key messages), which in turn are provided to service members with a focus on retention (dependent variable).
     The research team’s goal was to first create conflict decision in order to introduce dissonance among service members and then to move service members on to preference decision, in order to reduce that dissonance. In creating cognitive conflict, the research team worked from the assumption that service members who decide to leave the military are predisposed to leaving because they do not see an attractive alternative to getting out. The most attractive choice then, is to leave, but the choice is made by default, because nothing better is being offered. (See Figure #1)
     Several stories from the different services illustrate this point. A Navy lieutenant was ranked one of eight lieutenants in the command on his last set of fitness reports. He asked to be assigned to his current command. “Keeping this young officer in the Navy should have been a no-brainer. Instead, he had put in his letter, along with five other lieutenants in the wardroom. The skipper shook his head. He had a feeling of trying and failing, but not really knowing what he was doing wrong. Regretfully, he signed the endorsement and moved on to the next item in his inbox…" (Natter, Lopez & Hodges, 1998).
     Comments from the retention survey conducted by the research team were similar in tone and content to stories related by military leadership. One survey respondent commented that one way the military could work to retain people was to care that he was leaving. “No one ever tried to convince me that leaving wasn’t the way to go.” This type of feedback from Study I can then be used in formulating the key retention messages used in Study II.

Projected Results 

     Study II has the best opportunity for success with continuous effort and involvement by the public affairs office and through the one-on-one “media rich” channels available within the command. The introduction of dissonance in the form of choices may not necessarily result in the military’s desire to improve retention, but the one-on-one retention message and interest can provide attractive alternatives to stay in the military not otherwise considered by the member. Military leadership must also deliver on at least a portion of the proposed steps addressing the other factors of OPTEMPO, manning, and increased benefit packages. 
     Through command information provided in base newspapers and news briefs on overseas radio and television stations, the retention messages can be used via media “rich” channels to tell service members that yes, the draw down continues, and yes, it is stressful and more demanding than when there were more people in the service.  Service members are then provided information that carries the message: For those who decide to stay in the service, the benefits will soon outweigh the stresses.  The message paints those who stay as “winners." Each service is already taking steps to address specific PERSTEMPO concerns:

   **The Army sets the limit to 179 deployed days in a single deployment.  Extensions are considered on a case-by-case 
        basis, based on a goal of no more than 120 days per year.
   **The Navy has set a deployment cycle of a maximum of six months, with a minimum turnaround time between 
       deployments equal to twice the length of the deployment.
   **The Marine Corps' goal is a six-month deployment, with time between deployments also equal to twice the length of 
        the deployment. 
   **The Air Force has limited the number of deployed days to 179 in a single deployment, with a goal of members being 
        away from home no more than 120 days per year. 

     The Department of Defense is also addressing the other issues including pay, health and retirement benefits, and education. While the military offers many benefits, like medical care and commissaries, it is very important that military pay, the most visible element of military compensation, be competitive with private sector pay. Military retired pay is a critical element of the overall military compensation package. It is an important tool in our effort to manage the force and retain experienced mid-career personnel in the face of the uncertainties and sacrifices inherent in military service (Pang, 1997). The focus is the fact that the troops do not know this. Which is the public affairs goal within Study II, to inform the troops. In the model (see Figure #1), the positive aspects of cognitive dissonance cause an individual to decrease the dissonance through decision making, which is a change in the predisposition to leave the military. 
     The model shows the process for both the first-term enlistee and the careerist. A sample public affairs campaign would include drafting key retention messages, coordinating and educating key leadership, disseminating information and analyzing the results. Such a plan might include the following:

Public Affairs Campaign -- Dissemination strategy:

--Base newspapers. Periodically, base newspapers would run a story on the latest first term service member or careerist to reenlist.  The story would highlight what the service member was offered (bonus, station of choice, travel) woven into the context of a personality feature. Positive retention-related stories are an avenue to creating dissonance. 
--Face to face. Using an information packet containing key retention messages, a unit retention counselor would interview the service member at the point he or she enters their reenlistment window.  The interview is preceded by an e-mail or phone call to the service member from a key leader.  The call or e-mail is used to motivate the service member with a key message. That message is that the command realizes there is no military decision more important than the one the service member is about to make, and that it is important to the command if the service member would seriously consider staying on active duty. 
--Small group. A retention class could be rotated into the weekly service training schedule.  A retention counselor would moderate the class, emphasizing key messages and encouraging feedback about job satisfaction. Pay issues and current benefit news should also be included as part of the discussion. 
     The threshold of success would be the 80th percentile identified by the Department of Defense as a successful retention level. The analysis would be monitoring retention numbers to see if they move from the current level towards the 80th percentile.


Implications for Public Affairs

     The involvement of public affairs staff in a retention program is critical to the success of the two-stage process as identified in Study I and Study II, as well as a key factor in the effectiveness of the campaign. Public affairs staffs could be directly involved in publicizing the training program, to get the word out to supervisors and higher levels of leadership in the chain of command, enlisting increased support and pressure to improve retention. 
     Due to the changes in the past five years, the military has also experienced a loss of culture, with members no longer feeling pride and ownership of their organization.  By regaining the commitment of its military members, the services can improve retention. But public affairs staffs must be included in the very beginning, during the planning stages of retention programs. Public affairs staffs can assist in updating and keeping the internal audience, the military service members, informed on the status of benefits and available choices, personalizing (or localizing) the information. 
     Based on the theoretical approach of media richness the projected public affairs implications stem from the idea that further study needs to be conducted to determine the impact face-to-face communication has on retention. In addition, key military leadership support is critical in reducing retention problems in all services. Public affairs is the command's voice and method of information distribution.
     Command level public affairs leadership should be the driving force in creating a plan to communicate key retention messages at test installations in each service. Public affairs involvement can ensure the messages delivered to service members are clear and consistent, and help to reduce "exit." 
     The interjection of cognitive dissonance into the retention model (see Figure #1) is expected to open a new avenue into persuasion, organizational systems, and media richness theory research by introducing cognitive dissonance through key retention messages. The message is not what the target audience will expect to hear, resulting in new information in regard to their decision to either stay or exit the service. 
     As a direct conduit to the affected populations, public affairs can incorporate numerous "rich" mediums of communication ranging from increasing the study populations knowledge of benefits and awards to showing how leadership is aware of the problems affecting retention and are attempting to reduce them through proactive measures. A public affairs plan will be required for each service to clearly establish key retention messages with questions and answers (both written and produced) as well as showing how they are to be implemented. 
     The research team recommends that commanders utilize key retention messages in face-to-face communication such as: commanders calls, staff meetings, and counseling sessions. Other avenues could include articles published in the base newspaper, command email, military cable TV channels, and in overseas locations, broadcast through local command television and radio outlets. 

Implications of Theory

     Based on the theoretical approach of media richness, further study is needed to determine the impact face-to-face communication has on retention. Other areas for further research could include how organizations gain cohesiveness and loyalty, qualities that keep the organization together and retain employees, even in the face of more serious problems. 
     Another implication for further study is: if the U.S. military improves funding, manning and the current operation tempo (work schedules and deployment schedules), retention will also improve. Another factor is senior and mid-level military leadership who actively seek to be a driving force to reverse service members exit from the military.