The Future Military

Chapter 9

Other chapters:


Serving Force XXI 

As the United States Military embarks upon a new millennium, it is time to take a fresh look at military personnel management issues. The All Volunteer Force, in existence for more than 25 years, has proven itself viable and successful, yet ever so challenging to maintain. The military attracts quality members from a broad demographic base.  Military personnel include minorities and women in increasing proportions.  Further, the total force is committed to the military and their families. These and other factors place quality-of-life matters at the forefront of human resource interests and force management.

  Despite our nation’s status as the sole superpower, our armed forces train and deploy for numerous missions and operations that include warfighting, peacekeeping, antiterrorism, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and other less-traditional roles. The post-Cold War world has drawn the military into regional conflicts, civil wars, and ethnic disputes beyond traditional U.S. security interests. What’s more, the role of the military may be transformed mid-mission.  It is an important and perplexing task to try to understand how the military’s evolving responsibilities affect today's military recruiting and personnel management.

In addition to advanced weapon systems and technology, visions of the future include a broadened understanding of the knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics required by those who operate, maintain, and support military technology.  Readiness will depend increasingly upon the interdependence of a multitude of attributes possessed by our men and women in uniform.  Task cohesion must be forged not only within units, but also across units, within Service, across Services, and, in the case of multi-national peacekeeping forces, across nations.

Recruiting Challenges and Potential

One challenge that the military must face is how to project an image of viable career contender for all Americans regardless of economic conditions.  Although military service is a noble calling, the profession of arms is not a popular career choice.Compounding this is a booming U.S. economy with the lowest unemployment rate in the history of the All Volunteer Force as well as growing college enrollment rates among youth of enlistment age. The economic and educational opportunities to be found in and through the military face strong competition from the public and private sector.  Middle class youth typically drawn to service may be dissuaded from a term of service in favor of a less-restrictive and demanding civilian job or the opportunity to pursue a college degree.

As the smaller force of the future places greater cognitive demands on and requires versatility from Servicemembers, personnel recruitment and maintenance must adapt accordingly.    As always, reliance on all demographic and social segments in the United States is imperative. Traditionally, African-Americans have participated in the military at higher proportions than their overall representation in the general population, but Asian-Americans and Hispanics tend to be underrepresented.

Certainly, the preceding chapters have suggested that there is potential for even greater military participation by women. Although women are making inroads into leadership positions, their military roles are still unsettled if not contested. Military readiness and performance depend upon multiple factors—beyond brains and brawn. As such, all Servicemembers should be valued for the contributions and strengths they bring to the force.

College graduates, although well represented among the officer corps and among the reserves are underrepresented in the military's enlisted ranks.This trend is significant, not so much as an equity concern but because an increasing number of high school graduates are college bound. The Department of Defense must learn to attract recruits from the growing segment of enlistment-aged youth who are college-oriented. 

Recruiting for the new millennium requires reexamining markets that are typically ignored such as college stopouts and dropouts and non-high school graduates.  Quality as currently conceptualized may decline somewhat but remediation of weakness and the search for salient compensating factors may be in order.   It is also wise to keep in mind that quality has been at unprecedented levels and small declines do not necessarily signal an unprepared or ineffective force.

The U.S. military is increasing in diversity though it does not reflect completely the population from which it is derived. Selection standards and policies as well as personal preferences contribute to the extent to which the military demographically mirrors American society.  Nonetheless, population proportions are an important benchmark for gauging the attractiveness, if not the relevance, of the military to all segments of society. In addition to tracking these statistics, the trends captured in the Population Representation report compel us to be aware of the changing youth markets.

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