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Posts Tagged ‘civil military relations’

Mackubin Thomas Owens, US Civil-Military Relations After 9/11: Renegotiating the
Civil-Military Bargain, 2011

 

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Virtually all military sociologists have come to view modern militaries as highly professionalized social institutions.  Only a generation ago this was decidedly not the case.  In 1973 the United States discontinued the draft and moved towards an all volunteer military.  While most commentators would agree that the professionalization of our armed forces has resulted in a far more capable and battle ready force, the all volunteer model has greatly reduced military participation rates across the U.S. population.

According to U.S. Census Bureau American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates as of 2009 only 10.12 percent of the nation’s population (18 and older) has served in the military.   Of these veterans 65.2 percent are 55 or older.  Compare this to peak of about 19 percent in 1970.  As the population continues to grow, the veteran population continues to age, and military participation rates continue to dwindle, this proportion will only decrease.

This general trend can be seen in our national elected bodies as well.  Among the 535 member of the 11th Congress 120 have served in the military.  While this measure is greater than the proportion among the general population it has been declining (there were 126 in the 110th congress).  As the majority of veterans move into retirement it is likely that the percentage of representatives with military experience will continue to decline. 

Despite declining participation rates the military has long enjoyed a favorable public opinion and consistently rates above other national institutions.  However, a favorable view does not necessarily indicate and understanding of the culture of the organizations and views not based in a personal understanding of the institutions are much more susceptible to change with the political winds.

Even within our veteran population the level of understanding of the modern military culture may not be as high as it might appear at first blush.  The military culture that exists today is not the military culture that existed 40 years ago.  Perceptions of what life in the military means that are based on service that concluded decades ago may not be entirely in line with the realities of modern service.    

The mismatch between perceptions of military life and the realities of military life is often termed the “civil-military” gap.  It is the province of civil-military relations professionals and scholars to understand this gap and assess it implications for the military organization and the public at large.  Frank Hoffman described civil-military relations as the set of relationships between for sectors of society: American political elites, military elites, the American civil society, and the military writ large. It is the relationship between the last two of these that I mean to address here.    

Given the general decline in military participation rates it is important, from the perspective of the military organization, to communicate the core aspects of its culture and mission to the general public.  This blog is meant as a forum in which popular perceptions of military culture can be discussed and suggestions as to how to most effectively bridge any civil-military gap that exists can be forwarded.

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