(February 2005) Since 1973, when the draft ended and the U.S. military became an all-volunteer force, the military has increasingly reflected the country's diversity. But it still struggles with aspects of that diversity as well as the needs of military families, according to a new Population Bulletin from the Population Reference Bureau.
According to the report, America's Military Population, some of these issues include the underrepresentation of minority men as officers and the wage penalty many women—especially young and white women—appear to suffer for their military service in later civilian employment.
The military increasingly must grapple with family issues: how to support families during deployments; how to help military wives and husbands get jobs when their spouses are transferred; how to ensure that children keep up when they move to a new school system; how to help families transition from military to civilian life; and how to manage gays and lesbians in the military (an estimated 2.5 percent of active-duty military personnel).
"Such issues did not concern Americans for most of U.S. history, but are common today," say David R. Segal and Mady Wechsler Segal, authors of the report and director and associate director, respectively, of the University of Maryland's Center for Research on Military Organization.
The report finds that minorities have made some gains among enlisted personnel but only small gains among officers. African Americans are underrepresented in the officer ranks, compared with their share of enlisted personnel or the civilian labor force.
The commissioning of Hispanics as officers has also lagged well behind their recruitment into enlisted ranks—just 4 percent of officers are Hispanic. And Hispanic officers in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps are more likely than white or black officers to be at the lowest officer grades.
But the report also says that many black women see the military as providing greater opportunities and benefits than the civilian labor market, and black women are better represented in the military than black men. Further, black women are better represented than white women among noncommissioned officers, in part reflecting their longer stays in the service.
Some 16 percent of female officers and 34 percent of enlisted women are black, compared with 9 percent of male officers and 20 percent of enlisted men. In the Army, close to one-fourth of women officers and nearly one-half of enlisted women are black.
However, women overall do not benefit as much from their military service in the civilian labor market as men do, although they find it easier to transfer their skills.
America's Military Population also reports that, as demands on military personnel and their families have increased in recent years—including more frequent deployments and more dangerous missions—the military has had to respond to greater dissatisfaction within the ranks and within military families about the military lifestyle.
Indeed, as the report shows, retention continues to be a problem for the military: Most service men and women do not reenlist after fulfilling their original commitment.