Summer 2011

The Modern American Military

Image:
U.S. Department of Defense photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez, U.S. Marine Corps., 2011.
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American soldier crosses stream in Afghanistan in 2011
Image:
U.S. Department of Defense photo by Cpl. Alfred V. Lopez, U.S. Marine Corps., 2011.
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Manning & Financing the Twenty-First-Century All-Volunteer Force

The transition from a conscription-based to a volunteer force after 1973 required a force of reduced size that could compete financially with the civilian labor market. To compensate for these changes, the Department of Defense took three steps: developing the Total Force, which integrated the reserve component with active duty; maintaining the Selective Service System, which could be activated in case of prolonged and manpower-intensive conflict; and civilianizing as many support functions as possible. Despite this original blueprint, political pressures prevented military and civilian leadership from activating the Selective Service after it became apparent that the Bush administration’s national security strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan required prolonged, large-scale deployments. The result has been enormous physical and psychological strain on personnel, especially in the Army and reserve components; diminishing standards for the quality of recruits; and severe financial strain related to pay raises, retention bonuses, retirement, and health care benefits.

Authors Lawrence J. Korb and David R. Segal