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Research Report

GENERATIONS OF WAR: The Rise of the Warrior Caste & the All-Volunteer Force

Amy Schafer
Copyright Date: May. 1, 2017
Pages: 22

Table of Contents

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  1. (pp. None)
  2. (pp. 1-1)
  3. (pp. 2-2)
    Janine A. Davidson
  4. (pp. 3-3)

    There is a widening gulf in the United States today between the public and those who serve in the military and fight the nation’s wars. Though the populace expresses a great deal of trust in the military,¹ the number of citizens with a direct connection to the military is shrinking, suggesting that respect for the military is inversely proportional to participation in it. There are several critical factors contributing to this separation, one of which is the growth of the “warrior caste” – a trend in which a large proportion of those who do choose to serve come from military...

  5. (pp. 4-4)

    The U.S. military has not always relied on volunteers. During World Wars I and II and the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the United States used conscription via selective service registration. Then, as now, male citizens aged 18–25, as well as certain immigrants, are legally required to register for selective service. Failure to register is considered a felony punishable by up to five years in prison and up to $250,000, highlighting the seriousness of the obligation to serve if called.⁹

    The United States shifted from fielding a force supplemented by conscription to an all-volunteer force in 1973, toward the...

  6. (pp. 5-5)

    Maintaining talent in the armed forces is a greater challenge than simply hitting recruiting targets; it requires strategic planning across different roles, anticipating future needs, and accessing the highest quality of talent possible.21 The movement away from conscription inherently relied on young men and women volunteering to serve, with a premium placed on the quality of those accessions. When considering recruitment, the key element is not simply meeting numerical targets, but also considering if the current model recruits and retains the ideal mix of people, and if not, how to optimize or improve on these practices. Primary concerns surrounding recruiting...

  7. (pp. 6-8)

    The data surrounding recruits with a familial connection to the military comes from a variety of sources, and therefore is somewhat fragmented. It paints a picture of a force in which many of those who choose to serve have a familial connection to military service. Other factors, however, play a significant role in influencing the propensity to serve, such as geographic exposure to service through proximity to a major military base or reserve center.24 The primary sources of data on the warrior caste phenomenon consist of surveys distributed and collected by the Department of Defense to assess population attitudes toward...

  8. (pp. 9-13)

    Familial propensity to serve and its impact on recruiting warrant further study, as there are likely both positive and negative effects associated with this trend. How does the “familiarity gap” between the armed forces and society writ large apply to democratic norms? What role does the warrior caste play in narrowing the recruiting pool and diversity of background and experience of the force? Does the warrior caste trend contribute to a separate ethos or sense of superiority among the armed forces? Possible benefits include the steady stream of recruits the warrior caste provides, the advanced knowledge and preparation these recruits...

  9. (pp. 13-14)

    As the military moves further away from the conscription force, the impacts of the warrior caste phenomenon will continue to grow.

    Though a return to conscription is the oft-cited solution to the isolation of the All-Volunteer Force, this line of reasoning is misguided. The transition to the all-volun­teer system has yielded a more professional and talented force. Conscription likely would weaken the military, contradicting the fundamental goal of any recruiting initiative, which must be to ensure the military remains the best fighting force in the world. The goal of further diversifying the force and incentivizing the public to feel a...

  10. (pp. 15-15)

    Service members with a family history of service are valuable additions to the armed forces, but it must be as a subset of a more diverse force. Varied perspectives and innovative thought come from a diversity of backgrounds, in addition to other markers of diversity such as race, gender, geography, and socioeconomic status. Given that the military is currently made up of white males from the South and West, a growth in the warrior caste will perpetuate a homogeneous force to its own detriment. In addition to the concerns already raised, this particular slice of America is facing a number...

  11. (pp. 16-18)
  12. (pp. 19-20)