Filling the Ranks

From Belfer Center Studies in International Security

Filling the Ranks

Transforming the US Military System

By Cindy Williams





The war in Iraq and the problematic military occupation of that country have called into question the adequacy of America's all-volunteer force. Politicians and others have expressed doubts about its equity and capability; some have called for the reinstatement of the draft. Yet over the past twenty years the all-volunteer military has become a technologically advanced force that has contributed to America's overall military advantage. This book analyzes current military pay and personnel policies and identifies changes needed to maintain and improve America's all-volunteer force.

Filling the Ranks argues that to attract qualified and motivated volunteers, the armed forces need to offer better tangible inducements—pay, benefits, and training—to accompany such intangible rewards as pride in serving one's country. Many of the policies related to tangible rewards were established shortly after World War II and are no longer effective. Filling the Ranks presents detailed assessments of US military pay and personnel policies in light of the strategic, demographic, economic, and labor realities of the future. It identifies specific problems that today's military career patterns, training, pay, and benefits pose for officers and enlisted men and women in both active duty and reserve forces, discussing such issues as competition with the private sector for talent, the need to restructure compensation, and provision of family support. It offers recommendations for more flexible, adaptive, and effective policies and a blueprint for achieving them.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262232395 376 pp. | 6.125 in x 9.25 in


$25.00 X ISBN: 9780262731720 376 pp. | 6.125 in x 9.25 in


  • [T]his book adds value to the profession far beyond the positions that the authors take and the recommendations made for changes in the active and reserve forces...For the decision maker and more general professional, it is an essential resource for understanding the history and practice of personnel management in the US military, as well as a practical overview of the current problems confronting the system and potential solutions for them.


  • [W]illiams and colleagues challenge traditional thinking on military compensation...


  • If the United States is to maintain an effective and responsive military force on a volunteer basis in this age of global terror, the military's personnel policies must be transformed. Clinging to an archaic and outmoded personnel system is just as dangerous as clinging to archaic weapons' systems and war fighting doctrines. In this well written, comprehensive, and provocative book, Cindy Williams and her colleagues lay out an excellent game plan for transforming the Pentagon's personnel policies. A must-read for anyone interested in national security.

    Lawrence J. Korb

    Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower, Reserve Affairs, Installations, and Logistics) 1981-1985

  • The war in Iraq has highlighted the shortcomings in our current military personnel policies—active, reserve, and National Guard. If the system itself is not changed, we stand to have a force in the future which will not fit our nation's needs. The entire system needs to be revised to ensure future political-military success in a changing world. Filling the Ranks lays out some commonsense approaches toward ensuring that the needs of the nation are met.

    Edward C. Meyer

    USA (Ret.), Chief of Staff of the United States Army 1983-1987

  • While most of the debate over military transformation has focused on new technologies and ways of war, this volume takes a fresh look at the policies that govern the U.S. military's most valuable asset: its people. Full of insightful analysis and provocative recommendations for transforming our military personnel system, Filling the Ranks is a must read for anyone interested in ensuring that the U.S. military can continue to recruit, develop and retain the best and brightest in the future.

    Michèle A. Flournoy

    Senior Advisor, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, 1995-1998