NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Fewer Veterans Are Being Elected To Congress

October 18, 1999

There has been a dramatic decline in the number of former military personnel serving in Congress and that could have substantial policy implications, according to a study of U.S. civil-military relations. Researchers say they are unsure whether veterans are not winning seats or are just not running for office.

  • During the Vietnam War era, about two-thirds of the members of Congress were veterans.
  • Now the proportion is down to about one-third.
  • The report, "Project on the Gap Between the Military and Civilian Society," observed that at least since 1816, "there has been a very durable pattern in U.S. behavior: The more veterans in the national political elite, the less likely the United States is to initiate the use of force in the international arena.
  • The authors of the study found that the U.S. military's officer corps is moving away from the tradition of nonpartisanship and is increasingly more Republican and conservative.

Overall, the two-year long study by two dozen political scientists, historians, sociologists and academicians concludes that there is a growing gap between the military and the rest of society -- but the gap isn't as extreme as some have reported it to be."

Source: Thomas E. Ricks, "Some Fear U.S. Policy Shift Will Result from Congress's Waning Pool of Vets," Wall Street Journal, October 18, 1999.


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