TAP Overview 2018-01-16T15:48:21-05:00


Each year from 2010 through 2014, an average of 309,000 servicemembers transitioned from the DOD to life in the private sector. Ninety percent of the Transitioning Servicemember (TSM) population of active duty and Selected Reserve (an annual average of 279,000) are enlisted personnel, and 10 percent (an annual average of 30,000) serve or served as officers. TAP includes five days of classroom-based instruction, and depending on the servicemember’s post-separation plan, TAP has separate tracks for higher education, career technical training, and entrepreneurship. 181 DOD installations conduct TAP full time.

The military Transition Assistance Program (TAP) was established by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 1991 (P.L. 101-510, Section 502) and codified in 10 U.S.C. §1142. The original purpose of the program was to help ease the transition into civilian life for military servicemembers who were involuntarily separated as part of the force structure drawdowns of the late 1980s. From 1991 to 2011, Congressional interest remained high, particularly in regard to troops in transition following combat service in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2011, Congress passed the VOW to Hire Heroes Act (Title II of P.L. 112-56), which made a pre-separation counseling program mandatory for all servicemembers who have served at least 180 continuous days of active duty. Current law requires TSMs to commence participation in TAP as soon as possible during the 24-month period preceding an anticipated retirement date or 12-month period preceding the anticipated separation date. It also specifies that pre-separation counseling should commence no later than 90 days before the date of discharge or release unless precluded by unanticipated circumstances or operational requirements.
TAP is administered by the DOD in cooperation with the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Labor (DOL), Education (DOE), Homeland Security (DHS), and the United States Small Business Administration (SBA), and Office of Personnel Management (OPM). DOD’s Transition to Veterans Program Office (TVPO) within the Office of the Secretary of Defense is the principal oversight body for the military departments and components in the development, management oversight, and strategic planning of TAP.

Although the organization name and procedures for TAP vary, all military branches are supposed to offer the same benefits and services. Transition Assistance offices are located on most military installations in the United States, with some overseas. TAP has different names based on the branch of service, designated as follows:

• ARMY: Soldier for Life – Transition Assistance Program (SFL-TAP)
• MARINE CORPS: MCCS Transition Readiness Program (TRS)
• NAVY: Transition Goals, Plans, Success (Transition GPS)
• AIR FORCE: Airman & Family Readiness, Transition Assistance Program (TAP)
• COAST GUARD: Office of Work-Life Programs – Transition Assistance Program (TAP)

In September 2011, then-President Obama established the DOD-VA Veterans’ Employment Initiative Task Force, charged with revising TAP to better meet the needs of TSMs. The centerpiece of the redesigned TAP is called Transition GPS (Goals, Plans, Success). Implementation of the classroom component of the new program was complete in January 2013.

The core curriculum includes the following modules: pre-separation counseling (4 hours), VA benefits (6 hours), employment workshop (24 hours), financial planning (4 hours), resilient transition (1 hour), and a crosswalk between military and civilian skills that includes a “skills gap” analysis (2 hours). TSMs are also required to develop an individual transition plan, and participate in a “capstone event.” The capstone event verifies that the TSMs meet career readiness standards and have a viable individual transition plan. Successful completion is based on achieving “career readiness standards,” not simply attendance. In addition to the core curriculum, TSMs are able to participate in optional tracks for higher education, entrepreneurship, and technical training, each of which last two days. TSMs can participate in all three optional tracks if they so desire.

DOD SkillBridge exists to link TSMs with civilian job and employment training opportunities, including apprenticeships and internships, while still in uniform, if their commanders grant them release time to participate. Such training can take place starting up to six months prior to a TSM’s separation. Additionally, the training must offer a high probability of employment and be provided to the TSM at little or no cost. A number of companies and training providers have already set up or are setting up DOD SkillBridge training programs, ranging from Fortune 500 companies and public utilities, to labor unions and other groups.

Currently, a fairly limited number of TSMs have participated in SkillBridge. Preliminary examination suggests that barriers to increased participation may include commander approval and geographic restrictions. For example, SkillBridge participation is largely limited to a 50-mile radius of a servicemember’s installation.

The Career Readiness Standards (CRS) are the DOD’s measures of a TSM’s preparedness for a civilian career. They are a set of common and specific standards and associated products, based on TSM-determined goals, that must be achieved to demonstrate that the TSM is prepared to pursue post-separation goals. These standards capitalize upon the skills and experience TSMs have gained during military service and are aligned to employment or technical training and education competency areas. They ensure that TSMs depart active duty prepared with the appropriate skills and knowledge to posture a successful transition. Basic list of requirements can be viewed here.

As of 2015, the TAP Military Life Cycle (MLC) model initiates a servicemember’s transition preparation at the onset of their military career (both active duty and Guard/Reserve). The model outlines key points in time, or “touch points,” throughout a servicemember’s career to align their military career with their civilian career goals. It promotes awareness of the Career Readiness Standards (CRS) that TSMs must meet long before separating from active duty and enables transition to become a well-planned, organized progression of skill building and career readiness preparation. Overview is available here.

Program costs are split between the partner agencies. Aggregate program cost for all agencies is not reported, and TAP is not a single budget line item. Within the DOD budget, the TVPO is included as a line item in the Operation and Maintenance budget for the Defense Human Resource Activity. For FY2017, the amount requested for TVPO was $3,047,000. The military departments subsume TAP funding into broader budget categories for reporting purposes. DOD has estimated that its total annual cost for the program is approximately $100 million, including service-level programs and operation of the TVPO office. In FY2016 the SBA portion of TAP was funded at $8.4 million, DOL portion at $14 million, and VA portion approximately $58.9 million.
There is opportunity to re-allocate existing funds to reform TAP without burgeoning an already inflated budget. Exact costs will need to be determined via support from Congress.