NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Volunteer Military Looks Like America

January 20, 2003

Rep. Charles Rangel has called for reinstating the draft because the burden of military service is unfairly borne by the nation's blacks and poor. The Department of Defense (DOD) counters that the opposite is indeed true.

In an 11-page report, the Pentagon says "The All Volunteer Force (AVF) has served the nation for more than a quarter of a century, providing a military that is experienced, smart, disciplined and representative of America."

Black recruits, says the Defense Department report:

  • Closely parallel their representation among the youth population, and like all members of the AVF, they are high school graduates with above average aptitude; not the "poor and uneducated."
  • Account for 21 percent of the enlisted force, but make up only 15 percent of combat arms -- such as infantry, armor and artillery.
  • Account for 36 percent of Functional Support and Administration and 27 percent of Medical and Dental career fields.
  • Often choose military service as a viable and often more lucrative career than a "civilian" job.

The report also noted that casualty trends in Desert Storm were consistent with these occupational patterns.

  • While blacks accounted for 23 percent of military personnel deployed to the Gulf, but they comprised only 17 percent of the combat or non-combat deaths.
  • Whites, who made up 71 percent of the U.S. forces in the theater accounted for 76 percent of the deaths.
  • Hispanics, who were four percent of the forces, accounted for four percent of the deaths; and others -- less than two percent of the force -- made up two percent of the deaths.

Source: Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness), "Conscription Threatens Hard-Won Achievements and Military Readiness," United States Department of Defense, January 13, 2003.

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