Wednesday, December 31, 2014

     Many writers have noted the ever widening civil-military gap; the disconnect between the American people and their military.  Less than one percent of Americans have served in our long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  The gap is reflected on Capital Hill.  The 114th Congress that will be seated in January will have the smallest percentage of military veterans since before WWII.  Only eighteen percent of the House members are veterans.  In 1977 it was seventy nine percent.  In the Senate twenty percent are military veterans.  Even more remarkable is the fact that the incoming chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and his two predecessors are not military veterans; an unprecedented succession.
     I would suggest that America's decision to exempt all citizens from an obligation to protect their freedoms and liberties through military service may explain this trend.  The All-Volunteer Force is the single biggest cause of the civil-military gap.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Troubling Bumper Crop
     The success of the United States in establishing a sustainable democracy in Afghanistan depends not only upon military actions but also on an Afghan government free of corruption and a strong economy.  Last month the United Nations issued a report stating that Afghan opium cultivation increased by seven percent over 2013 and opium production increased by seventeen percent.  This increase followed a forty nine percent increase in 2013....the highest levels since the fall of the Taliban government in 2002.  In the late 1990's the Taliban government completely eradicated opium cultivation in Afghanistan.  Despite a US goal to eradicate opium production it has increased exponentially since our occupation.  Now the Taliban both tax and participate in opium production.  Opium production represents approximately twenty percent of Afghan GDP and recently three judges quietly released from prison an Afghan drug kingpin who was serving a twenty year sentence.
     The report represents another data point in engaging the question.....why are we still spending American blood and treasure in Afghanistan?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

     In my book "Skin in the Game...Poor Kids and Patriots" I ask whether the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) is working and will work in the future based on fairness, efficiency, and sustainability.  Emerging arithmetic is helping to answer the question.  Major General Allen Batschelet, commander of the US Army Recruiting Command, was quoted in the Army Times, stating "We are finding fewer and fewer people who are qualified to serve" as a result of obesity.  Elevated high school dropout rates and adolescent asthma also reduce the pool of those who qualify.  Today fewer than 3 in 10 Americans in the prime recruiting age group meet the recruiting standards.  By the year 2020 that ratio may fall to 2 of 10.
     The Army alone needs to recruit about 80,000 new people each year.  The other services also have recruiting requirements.  Each year about four million Americans reach the age of eighteen.  The "propensity to serve" in the military (those willing) is about 8% and has declined over the past decade.  Here's where the arithmetic gets interesting.  If 30% of the recruiting pool is able to serve and 8% is willing to serve that means that 2.4% of the pool is both willing AND able to serve; 2.4% of four million is 96,000 available to all the branches of the military.  Demand exceeds supply under current conditions and the AVF is unsustainable.  If either the "propensity to serve" (willing) or those qualified (able) falls, the arithmetic gets worse.
     Now may be a good time to ask if the All-Volunteer Force will work in the future.