All-Volunteer Force Has 'Come of Age,' Chu Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 27, 2003 After 30 years of existence, America's all-volunteer force has proven to be a success, DoD's top personnel official said here June 27.
Yet, when the all-volunteer concept was launched on July 1, 1973, "there were many naysayers who said this wouldn't work," David S.C. Chu, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, noted.
The British had a volunteer military, Chu observed, but it was much smaller force than America's. Consequently, the U.S. effort "was unknown territory," he said.
"It's extraordinary how successful" America's all- volunteer force has become, Chu pointed out, noting the volunteer military is "a much better force" than the old conscripted force.
"People (in uniform) really want to be there," he emphasized, adding, "They want to do their job."
As evidence, Chu pointed to U.S. military successes in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the war against global terrorism.
And similar exemplary American military performance was witnessed in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, he noted.
Chu maintained "that conflict made believers of the few remaining doubters that we had," regarding the viability of an all-volunteer military.
The success of the all-volunteer force owes much to the patriotism and "best instincts" of American youth who serve, Chu explained.
Such young men and women want "to do something meaningful, to serve, to contribute, to feel proud about what they're doing and I feel that's what we offer," he added.
And service members are better treated today, Chu observed, noting that people were handled "as if they were a commodity" during the draft era.
Another factor contributing to the success of today's volunteer military is better pay, he noted.
"We have to be a bit above average (in military pay) if we're going to ask young people to accept the hardships and the risks associated with this calling," Chu emphasized.
DoD is also working on reducing the out-of-pocket expenses for service members' housing, he added, as well as where troops are assigned and how often.
It's also important, Chu noted, that service members perform the jobs that they've been trained for.
"You can't stick (a service member into) some other 'slot,' hoping a 'square peg' will fit into a 'round hole,'" he explained, noting, "That's a serious mistake."
Also, DoD must "be thoughtful" of the concerns of service members with families, Chu observed. A related issue is jobs and careers for spouses, he noted. One remedy, he continued, is concentrating military populations at fewer locations, such as how the Navy concentrates its military housing around San Diego.
This way, sailors change jobs "but they still live in the San Diego area," he noted.
Another DoD concern in today's all-volunteer force, Chu remarked, is whether military families are obtaining a good education for their children, noting, "regrettably that's not true everyplace" where service members are stationed.
However, he noted DoD is now working with state governors and local officials to find ways to improve the educational experience for children of service members.
Yet, overall, Chu cites the all-volunteer military as a success, noting the system has "come of age."
Poll after poll, Chu pointed out, shows that Americans greatly respect and appreciate the accomplishments of their all-volunteer military.