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ILW Torchbearer: Sustaining the All-Volunteer Force

April 14, 2016

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The All-Volunteer Force (AVF) is a national treasure and the foundation of America’s national defense. Since 1973, the AVF has successfully safeguarded the nation’s freedom, prosperity and way of life. In large part, this success is built on long-term investments in the readiness of the force to meet challenges to American security. While that readiness requires investments in organizing, equipping and training, the most fundamental investment is in the men and women of the force. The people of the AVF are the primary component of readiness. This is especially true of the U.S. Army. Unlike other services that derive power from advanced platforms, the collective strength of the Total Army—Regular Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve—is the Soldier. Readiness requires recruiting and retaining the best and the brightest—fit and resilient men and women of character—to volunteer and serve. Soldiers and their families face many challenges that are specific to military life, such as frequent relocations and, of course, the risks incurred in combat. To sustain the AVF, it is necessary to provide to Soldiers— Regular Army, Army National Guard, Army Reserve—and their supporting cast (families, military retirees, veterans and their families) a quality of life commensurate with their sacrifice. This necessity is all the more critical in an era when there is an increasingly limited pool of eligible citizens in the population to recruit and when the AVF is competing with other lucrative career paths. The quality of life of Soldiers and those who support them is critical to the readiness and success of the Army and the AVF as a whole. In today’s complex and unpredictable operating environment, demand for Army forces is high and requires commensurate levels of readiness. As General Mark A. Milley made clear in his initial message after taking office as the Chief of Staff of the Army on 14 August 2015, the Army’s top priority is increasing the readiness of the force. However, budgetary pressures—increasing requirements coupled with the uncertainty of future funding—have forced senior leaders to have to make difficult choices from among different components of readiness: people, training, equipping and leadership development. This trend, if not reversed, will have the greatest impact on the AVF’s basic component of readiness—people. The military will not be able to provide an adequate quality of life, degrading its ability to recruit and retain the finest individuals and depriving the nation of the ready forces it needs to win now and in the future. Sustaining the AVF is a readiness multiplier.

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