Military Review English Edition November-December 2015 - Page 99

ALL-VOLUNTEER FORCE In an effort to aid lawmakers and policy makers in ensuring the continued success of the AVF, this article applies an operational design approach from U.S. joint doctrine to frame the environment, define the strategic problem, and propose the broad outlines of solutions to problems of enlisted recruitment and retention. The intent is to stimulate and focus further research and discussion. Current Views on the Problem The problems the military faces are real: the force requires quality enlistees, a civil-military divide does exist, and the current level of required funding for the AVF is fiscally unsustainable. Moreover, these salient issues are interrelated, and any approach that fails to link solutions to all the different parts of the problem in a holistic way will not address the root, systemic issues that put the AVF’s future at risk. Those who value the status of U.S. military members as elite professionals place a premium on the quality of military personnel. But, while the military has focused on improving recruiting efforts, it faces significant challenges in getting those quality personnel. The AVF’s major enlistment challenges each can be placed in one of three bins: the decreasing quality pool of potential recruits, a decreasing willingness among the youth within the public to serve in the military, and the unsustainable costs of today’s volunteer force. Shrinking pool of potential recruits. Recruitment for officer corps talent is relatively sound. However, the main risk to the AVF is recruitment of sufficient quality personnel to fill the enlisted ranks in the face of a dwindling talent pool available to the U.S. military. Decreasing willingness to serve in the military. To complicate the recruiting challenge, although the military as an institution remains highly regarded by the public, there is clear evidence of declining interest among young Americans to serve in the military. Those who see the AVF’s problems in terms of a civil-military divide promote different concepts for service requirements and opportunities for U.S. citizenry. U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel and retired U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal champion two distinctive approaches. Each proposes a form of national service aimed at youth. Since 2004, Rangel has regularly introduced legislation to reinstate the military draft; however, it routinely receives little support from colleagues.1 On the MILITARY REVIEW  November-December 2015 other hand, as head of the Aspen Institute’s Franklin Project, McChrystal is leading a separate effort that aims to make national service more attractive to youth by expanding both opportunities and expectations for voluntary public service.2 Rangel’s approach abolishes the AVF, replacing it with involuntary service under a draft system; McChrystal’s makes the AVF a possible subset of a broader national service voluntary system that provides training and benefits calculated to better attract recruits. Unsustainable cost of the all-volunteer force. Some, including members of the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress, view the AVF issue primarily through a fiscal lens. They aim to save the AVF by finding some way to balance the need to provide increases in competitive compensation and benefits with the ability to pay for the force. Advocates of this approach are exploring compensation reform, focusing on DOD healthcare, retirement, and benefits packages.3 They realize that additional fiscal obligations associated with increases in benefits and pay will be unsustainable in the long run, threatening the overall viability of the AVF. Broad environmental scanning—the “purposeful search in the environment for relevant information”—enables researchers to see these intersections of the problem and frame it to develop solutions.4 Joint doctrine provides the p olitical, military, economic, social, information, and infrastructure (PMESII) construct, which is helpful to analyze and determine such interrelationships.5 Although all factors of PMESII influence the viability of the AVF, three are most relevant and are most interrelated: political, military, and social. The Political Framework: Balancing Quantity and Quality of its New Talent Congress recognizes that to sustain the U.S. military as a viable and sufficient instrument of national power, a steady and sufficient flow of fully qualified volunteers is required. Congress determines sufficiency by mandating end strength and resourcing the military through budget appropriations.6 Congress also establishes through law the minimum quality standards the military can accept in an enlisted recruit.7 DOD has long managed this quantity-quality tension with two tools: policy for managing the system, and incentives for acquiring and retaining talent. 93