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In this article on Military.com, Bryant Jordan relates several suggestions made by Diane Mazur on how the civil-military gap might be narrowed.  Among them:

–   Services should focus less on selling themselves as the way to a career and more as avenues for people interested in learning some life and work skills, then moving on

–   A military attitude adjustment — recognizing that civilian leadership and criticism are essential

–   Encourage a wider range of people consider military service such as offering short enlistment periods and taking back jobs in logistics, supply, and cooking that have been outsourced

Mazur, a professor in the Levin College of Law at the University of Florida, is a former Air Force Captain.  She recently published a book on the topic titled “A More Perfect Military.”

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Near the very back of the A section of the November 25, 2011 edition of the New York Times, Sabrina Tavernise offers one of the best descriptions of the civil-military gap to be found anywhere in the mainstream national media in recent years (available online here).  Sabrine reports that, according to a recent Pew research Center survey:

At any given time in the past decade, less than 1 percent of the American population has been on active military duty, compared with 9 percent of Americans who were in uniform in World War II. As a result, there is a growing generation gap, with younger Americans far less likely than older ones to have a family member who served . . .  The result is a military far less connected to the rest of society, a condition that some academics have said might not bode well for the future of military-civilian relations (the military is run by civilians). Others have warned that less connection between the military and the rest of society could lead to less-informed decisions about whether to go to war, because conflicts and the people who fight them are not part of most people’s everyday lives.

The Pew Center’s findings were drawn from two surveys conducted in 2011. The work summarized an earlier study, released in October of 2011 by Pew Research Center’s, and appears to support the notion, often forward in civil-military relations literature, of a long-term trend away from military participation (for example, look here for a 2003 report from the National Research Council noting a trend away from military participation among American youths).

 

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According to last year’s census, there are 21.8 million military veterans in the United States.  Surely you can find at least one to sit down and speak with today.  Here is a rough breakdown of our veteran population:

7.6 million served during the Viet Nam era (1964-75)

4.8 million served during the “Gulf War” (defined as August
of 1990 until present)

2.1 million served during the Second World War (1941-45)

2.6 million served during the Korean war (1950-53)

5.5 million served during peacetime

These numbers do not add up to 21.8 because some veterans served during more than one of the listed periods.  For example, in 2010 there were 54,000 veterans who had served during WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam.

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I’ve written an op-ed that will run in tomorrow’s Baltimore Sun titled “Ending ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell’ is about more than gays in the military.”  The piece is also available on the Sun’s online opinion page here.  I’ll refer you to their site for the details, but if you have been reading this page in recent months you can probably make an educated guess as to its content. 

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Every year the United States Army Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth holds a writing competition open to anyone – civilian or military – conducting serious research on a subject chosen by the Military Review.  

This year’s prompt was as follows:

As the first commander of the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), General DePuy established the organization that oversees all aspects of training professional soldiers of all ranks. The second decade of the twenty-first century brings America’s Army into its tenth year of persistent conflict. As an institution, the Army must inform our political leaders and the national media as to what it truly means to be a member of the profession of arms.

This years winners, of which I am fortunate enough to be one, were announced in August.

depuywinners[1]

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–          In 1988 approximately 40 percent of 18-year-olds had at least one veteran parent. By 2000, that figure had fallen to 18 percent and by 2018, only about 8 percent of 18-year-olds will have a veteran parent and the exposure to and familiarity with military life that comes from being part of a military family.[1]

–          As of 2009 only 7.55% of the nation’s total population has served in the military.[2]

–          Of these veterans 65.2% are 55 or older.[3]

–          Among the 535 member of the 111th Congress 120 have served in the military.[4]

–          Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 slightly more than 2 million Soldiers and Marines have been deployed into combat zones.[5]

–          Of those deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan more than 790,000 individuals have served two or more combat tours.[6]

–          The War on Terror is now the longest conflict in American history, yet in almost ten years less than one percent of the U.S. population has served in either Iraq or Afghanistan.[7]

–          As of 2010 the population of the United States was 308,745,538.[8]

–          Total number of active duty personnel in 2011 (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard combined) was 1,477,639.[9]

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[1]See Barbara A. Bicksler and Lisa G. Nolan, Recruiting and All-Volunteer Force: The Need for Sustained Investment in Recruiting Resources – An Update, Strategic Analysis (December 2009).

[2] U.S. Census Bureau, 2005-2009 American Community Survey 5-Year Estimates.

[3] Id.

[4] Jennifer E. Manning, Membership of the 111th Congress: A Profile, Congressional Research Service, December 27, 2010.

[5] Michelle Tan, 2 Million Troops Have Deployed Since 9/11, Marine Corps Times December 18, 2009.

[6] Id.

[7] Charlie Lewis, A New Sparta: America’s Threatening Civil-Military Gap, Harvard Kennedy School Review (2011).

[8] U.S. Census Bureau, State and County QuickFacts.

[9] Denfense Manpower Data Center, Data Analysis and Program Division.

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Don Inbody, the Director of the Center for Research, Public Policy, and Training at Texas State University, recently published a concise (and in my view, very accurate) overview of the debate concerning the civil-military gap that has taken place  within policy and academic circles in recent years.

According to Inbody:

The discussion has centered around three questions:

  1. Whether such a gap exists in the first place.
  2. If it does exist, whether its existence matters, and
  3. If it does matter, what changes in policy might be required to mitigate the negative effects of such gap.

Most agree that a gap does exist, but there is widespread disagreement as to whether the gap matters. There has been even less discussion about what policies may be required to mitigate any such gap. However, few have  predicted disaster in civil-military relations and most of the discussion has centered on the nature of the gap and what might be causing it. Most discussion has concentrated on the third period [of the three periods identified  earlier in the work] and the debate tended to lay around three principal questions:

  1. What is the nature of the gap?
  2. Why does the gap matter?
  3. How can the problem be corrected?

It is well worth the ten minutes it takes to review Mr. Inbody’s work for anyone interested in understanding the evolution of this issue and the contours of the debate taking place today.

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