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James Jones and Kathy Roth-Douquet: Serving Those Who Serve

U.S. News and World Report

Friday, May 26, 2017

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It is time to modernize the way the military recruits and retains troops.

On Memorial Day, as we remember and honor those who gave their lives for our freedoms, we should reflect on the growing chasm between those who serve and the country they protect. Closing this gap is essential for the welfare of our military personnel, the strength of American society, and the security of our nation.

Doing so begins with modernizing the U.S. military’s system for managing and promoting personnel, which has changed little since World War II, even though the nature of the fight, of the fighter and of society has shifted dramatically.

Rapidly evolving 21st century threats require troops with increasingly diverse and specialized skillsets, recruitment from every segment of society and retention of those who decide to serve. Yet the military struggles to recruit and retain from a diverse and skilled talent pool…

As fewer citizens are inspired to serve, we risk loosening the civic bonds and shared experience of military service that helps build common ground and national vigor. That is why we have led a Bipartisan Policy Center task force on better aligning military service with modern social dynamics and national needs.

We recommend reforming the Selective Service System to require all young Americans to register and complete a military vocational aptitude test. The all-volunteer force has served this nation well, and we do not advocate for a return to the draft. Rather, an improved Selective Service System including an aptitude test would expose all Americans to the idea of voluntary military service and connect recruiters with those who possess highly sought after cybersecurity or language skills.