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Large-Scale Combat Operations, Casualties, and the All-Volunteer Force

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Technical Report,25 Jun 2018,23 May 2019

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US Army School for Advanced Military Studies Fort Leavenworth United States

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This monograph examines the origins of the current assumption that the All-Volunteer Force will be sufficient to meet all manpower requirements for the US Army in future conflicts and the risk inherent in that assumption. More than forty years of US reliance solely on volunteers, combined with the absence of a peer threat, continuously eroded the notion of any possible situation requiring a draft. However, the increasing likelihood of inter-state conflict between the United States and adversaries with capabilities that meet or exceed its own should give pause and drive a reassessment of volunteer force capability. In armed conflict against a peer threat, historic data suggests that the US Army may incur a massive number of casualties. If conflict is short, such losses may be sustainable. However, if such a conflict lasts longer than anticipated, losses may quickly outpace the supply of volunteers and imperil prospects for victory. Whether or not the United States returns to the draft is a political decision, but the US Army should not continue to assume that volunteers alone will be sufficient to meet its manpower needs.

Subject Categories:

  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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