Redesigning the All-Volunteer Force

  • Colonel Michael Runey

America’s modern All-Volunteer Force (AVF) just celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Yet the last fourteen years of war put unprecedented demands on the AVF, pushing the enlisted force in the Army in particular nearly to the breaking point. As the military faces new global threats, America’s youth head off to college at historically high rates funded in large measure by federal aid. The AVF’s long-term viability as a high-quality, affordable, professional volunteer force is increasingly at risk. Acquiring enlisted talent is increasingly challenging for the services, especially the Army. This research study uses an operational design approach from Joint Doctrine to scan the environment, reframe the strategic problem, and propose an approach to aid law and policy makers in sustaining the long-term viability of the AVF. Accounting for the inherent tensions between the key AVF stakeholders—the military, society—recommendations include fostering a national culture of service, realigning incentives to motivate qualified men and women, developing a talent-vetting system to qualify more people, and continuing to compete for and enlist highly qualified young Americans.