Army of Some: Recruiting Trouble for the All-Volunteer Force

All current U.S. military personnel have one thing in common: they volunteered. But falling recruitment has raised questions of national security, military readiness, and the health of U.S. society. Can the all-volunteer force handle a changing international security landscape?

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  • Gabrielle Sierra
    Director, Podcasting

Asher Ross - Supervising Producer

Markus Zakaria - Audio Producer and Sound Designer

Molly McAnany - Associate Podcast Producer

Episode Guests
  • Max Boot
    Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
  • Amy Bushatz
  • Timothy J. MacDonald
    Military Fellow, U.S. Army

Show Notes

The United States has operated an all-volunteer force (AVF) since 1973, joining the United Kingdom and several other countries in adopting that model of military recruitment. The U.S. military, internationally recognized as the world’s most powerful, consists of 1.4 million personnel stationed across the globe. 


But recruitment has been falling for years, prompting questions about U.S. military readiness amid an increasingly hostile international landscape. As the AVF approaches its fiftieth anniversary, it will be nearly two million people smaller than it was at its creation, encompassing less than 1 percent of the U.S. population. The majority of volunteers have at least one family member who served, and issues such as the high prevalence of sexual assault in the military could be deterring applicants. As the prospect of globally destabilizing war returns to the fore, is the all-volunteer force still up to the task of defending U.S. national security?



From CFR


Christa N. Almonte, “Inspiration in the Ranks,” Renewing America


Demographics of the U.S. Military” 


George M. Reynolds, “How Representative Is the All-Volunteer U.S. Military?


From Our Guests


Amy Bushatz, “Military Ranks: Everything You Need to Know,”


Max Boot, “The All-Volunteer Force Turns 50 – and Faces Its Worst Crisis yet,” Washington Post


Read More


2021 Demographics: Profile of the Military Community” [PDF], U.S. Department of Defense 


Dan Lamothe, “Pentagon Is Pressed on Worsening Recruiting Shortfalls,” Washington Post


Dave Philipps, “With Few Able and Fewer Willing, U.S Military Can’t Find Recruits,” New York Times


Watch and Listen


Uncle Sam Really Wants You,” Today, Explained, Vox


What Is Behind the U.S. Military’s Recruitment Crisis?” Al Jazeera


Young Professionals Briefing: The State of the U.S. Armed Forces in 2023,

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