New book details key changes in the staffing of western militaries

May 14, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, MA---Dramatic changes are underway for the men and women of the armed forces of North America and Europe, according to a new book, Service to Country: Personnel Policy and the Transformation of Western Militaries

"Countries on both sides of the Atlantic are taking a fresh look at who serves in the military and how they are brought in, how they are trained, their pay and benefits, and the career paths they can expect," according to Curtis Gilroy of the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense, who edited the book with Cindy Williams of the Security Studies Program at MIT.

"The changes-which include greater opportunities for women and minorities, better pay, and more help with landing a good job after military service-will directly affect how Western armed forces are able to fight in wars like those in Iraq and Afghanistan and respond to crises elsewhere," says Williams.

Service to Country describes the changing demographic and geopolitical landscapes in Western countries and how they relate to future supply and demand for military people, the choice between conscript and volunteer militaries, the challenges faced by militaries shifting from a conscript to an all-volunteer model, and the measures that the nations of Europe and North America are taking to address those challenges. Several chapters deal specifically with personnel issues related to reserve forces.

The most comprehensive study to date on how Western militaries are changing the ways in which they are staffed, Service to Country is a valuable resource for military and civilian leaders around the world who are adapting their forces to adjust to strategic, demographic and labor market shifts, as well as a useful guide for non-experts.

Some of the developments discussed in Service to Country:

  • Since the end of the Cold War, a dozen European countries have ended conscription. Like the UK since the early 1960s and the United States since the early 1970s, their militaries now must compete against civilian employers for every person who enters the armed forces.

  • Even those nations that retain compulsory service are steadily increasing the share of volunteers in uniform, engaging in a war for talent that requires new personnel strategies.

  • In many countries, demographic developments run against the trend: men and women of enlistment age make up a declining slice of the population, making the battle for future talent all the more challenging. Yet the stakes for success could not be higher, as militaries on both sides of the Atlantic deal with radically altered missions and technologies.

Measures nations are adopting to address personnel challenges include:

  • Building professional recruiting teams

  • Expanding the recruitment of women, minorities, and immigrants

  • Improving quality of life for service members and their families

  • Developing new pension systems

  • Improving post-military career prospects for those who volunteer to serve

Contributors to Service to Country include experts from the militaries, governments, universities, and think tanks of 12 countries. The authors are political scientists, economists, and sociologists as well as professional military officers.


Service to Country: Personnel Policy and the Transformation of Western Militaries, Curtis L. Gilroy and Cindy Williams (editors) (MIT Press 2007, 400 pages); Hardback $54.00 (ISBN 026207276-9); Paperback $27.00 (ISBN 9780262572354).

Curtis L. Gilroy is director of accession policy in the Office of the U.S. Secretary of Defense. Cindy Williams is a principal research scientist in the Security Studies Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for International Studies (CIS).

The Center for International Studies (CIS) supports interna­tional research and education at MIT. It is the home of MIT’s Security Studies Program; the MIT International Science & Technology Initiative, its pioneering global education program; the Program on Emerging Technologies; and seminars and research on migration, South Asia politics, the Middle East, cybersecurity, nuclear weapons, and East Asia. The Center has traditionally been aligned with the social sciences while also working with MIT’s premier science and engineering scholars. CIS produces research that creatively addresses global issues while helping to educate the next generation of global citizens.