The All-Volunteer Force
In 1968, President Richard Nixon created a commission to advise him on setting up an all-volunteer force (AVF). Referred to as the Gates Commission, its members considered manpower issues, logistics matters, attrition, retention, and long-term pensions and benefits accorded to careerists. They also had to evaluate combat effectiveness, combat sustainability, and the kind of individual that would make an ideal candidate for volunteer military service. It was an enormous task because the questions demanded in-depth research across a wide range of disciplines: economics, psychology, sociology, and legality. Some of the critical elements in deciding whether to proceed were budgetary because if the government wanted to create an AVF, then it would have to offer bonuses to enlist and reenlist, higher pay tables, and improved benefits
The new AVF became law in 1971 when President Nixon ended the draft and reduced the role of the Selective Service System to one of the pre-emergency registration programs. These changes became effective in 1973. Current law requires that all male citizens between the ages of 18-25 register with the SSS. In the event of a national emergency, and if authorized by Congress and the President, registered individuals could be rapidly called up for military service. At the same time, the government could compel individuals claiming conscientious objection to war for service in alternative (non-military) services to the country.
AVF Mixed Results
Since the implementation of the AVF, the active-duty force has become younger. Forty-nine percent of active-duty personnel are between the ages of 17-24. Today, 15% of the active-duty enlisted force is female (compared to only 2% of the force during the draft years), and 16% of the commissioned ranks are female.
Unlike the draft years, where only 42% of the forces were high school graduates, 92% of today’s service members graduated from high school. Among officers, 95% graduated from a four-year college or university, and 38% hold advanced degrees.
The AVF also created a more extensive “career force,” which means the number of married military personnel has increased. Again, 49% of the enlisted force structure is married, and 68% of the commissioned officer structure is married. These statistics significantly increase the government’s annual military manpower expenditures.
Most volunteers come from lower-to-middle class families. For the most part, upper-class people have no interest in serving their country. Racially, black Americans are over-represented in the AVF, presumably because these individuals have the most to gain from military service. America’s minorities generally do not benefit from public education, whereas the military provides valuable vocational training that enhances their post-military service employment opportunities. Conversely, Hispanics are under-represented in the AVF, possibly due to issues relating to immigration status.
The strength of effectiveness of the AVF relies on quality leadership. Many will argue that Americans aren’t getting quality leadership in 2022, beginning with the Commander-in-Chief and filtering down through department and service secretaries and the senior-most positions of the various military services. In essence, the problems include:
- Persistent allegations that rather than focusing on combat readiness and effectiveness, the policies of top leaders (both civilian and military) place greater emphasis on social engineering and widespread social justice activism.
- Americans are wary of protracted conflicts where there is no apparent national interest.
- After training young men and women to fight, government officials are too quick to prosecute them for war crimes in conflict areas where the enemy dresses in civilian clothing and hide behind their women and children.
- Rules of engagement seek more to protect enemy aliens than they do the safety and security of US combat forces.
- US policies (such as the application of politically correct mandates) prevent rather than encourage battlefield victories.
- Protracted conflicts obligate service-members to two or more combat tours within the period of their three or four-year enlistments.
- Military personnel, particularly those from the lower enlisted ranks to the middle commissioned ranks, have lost confidence in their military leaders and no longer trust them to keep faith with those who work in the trenches, at home or abroad. As one example, the downsizing of the military increases the operational tempo of those who remain in uniform. Many feel that the service chiefs sacrifice the welfare of the troops for their own advancements — that the senior flag officers aren’t speaking clearly or powerfully enough to civilian leaders, who haven’t a clue about military service or operations.
- While the government relinquishes military equipment to the enemy (Afghanistan), the military’s operational equipment is inadequate to their assigned missions. Cuts in recruitment and training endanger the front-line forces; the troops are working harder, with less, and senior leaders concentrate more on making Congress happy than they do in maintaining combat-ready troops.
American military volunteers have stepped up to the plate in defense of their homeland. Throughout all our history, despite the piffle in some quarters about America’s greatest generation, today’s young soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines are second-to-none in categories of military service prominence. And yet, morale within all the services is at an all-time low.
While most of the military’s large budget goes toward cost overruns and armament industry profits for producing second-rate weapons systems, large segments of our front line troops are required to attend racial sensitivity training (a re-hash of the old Human Relations Training discarded in the mid-1970s), and they are fed up with being called racists or misogynists.
Meanwhile, promotion for white soldiers has been placed on hold until the army adjusts the racial or gender balances. People who warrant promotion based on merit are denied promotion because of the government’s policy of reverse discrimination. It’s purely and simply reverse racism with the accompanying danger of “volunteer forces,” leaving the military drastically unprepared as they take their discharges at the end of their enlistments. Suppose that happens, and there is every indication that it is happening. How does the Biden government intend to address the problematic aggressive behaviors of America’s most likely enemies, China, Russia, and Iran? Without an AVF, Biden will likely have to arm himself and fight any subsequent battles alone.