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New research center to convene national symposium on the all-volunteer military force

Friday, April 08, 2016

LAWRENCE — Who fights America’s wars today? After protracted U.S. engagements in the Middle East, often involving multiple tours of duty by members of the National Guard and Reserve, it’s a sensitive topic for scholars and policymakers alike.

On April 28, the new Center for the Study of the U.S. Military at the University of Kansas will convene a national-level “Symposium on the All-Volunteer Force” (AVF). The program, which is free and open to the public, will feature intense discussions by senior experts on key topics from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. in the Centennial Room at the Kansas Union. That evening, a public conversation involving a panel will take place from 6-7:30 p.m. in the Summerfield Room at KU’s Adams Alumni Center. A reception will follow. 

“The military draft was replaced by the AVF in 1973,” said Beth Bailey, foundation distinguished professor of history. “Since then, U.S. forces have served heroically in trouble spots around the world. But given that a small number of Americans bore the brunt of extended war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s legitimate to ask whether the AVF is fair, whether it is efficient and whether it is sustainable. How well does it work, and will it work in the future? Are there good alternatives to the AVF, or is it the best guarantor of national defense? Those are the kinds of deep questions the symposium will address.”

Bailey is director of the Center for the Study of the U.S. Military (CSM), which is part of KU’s Institute for Policy & Social Research. She came to KU in 2015 from Temple University under a partnership between KU and the state to attract eminent Foundation Professors in support of the university’s strategic initiative themes. At Temple, Bailey was a professor of history and acting director of the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy. She is a leading specialist in the history of relations between the U.S. military and American society.

Symposium participants reflect a rich variety of backgrounds and perspectives. They include:

  • Robert “Rocky” Bleier, Vietnam War draftee and former halfback for the NFL Pittsburgh Steelers;
  • Jason Dempsey, adjunct senior fellow, Center for a New American Security, and author of "Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations";
  • Timothy Kane, research fellow, Hoover Institution, and author of "Bleeding Talent";
  • Lawrence Korb, senior fellow, Center for American Progress, and former assistant secretary of defense;
  • Dennis Laich, executive director, AVF Forum, and major general, U.S. Army (retired);
  • Adrian Lewis, professor of history, KU, and author of "The American Culture of War";
  • Jay Mangone, chief operating officer, Service Year Alliance, and former director, Franklin Project at the Aspen Institute;
  • Bernard Rostker, former director of Selective Service and undersecretary of defense;
  • Bruce Stanley, School of Advanced Military Studies, U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, and author of "Outsourcing Security"
  • Lawrence Wilkerson, distinguished visiting professor, College of William and Mary, former chief of staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, and colonel, U.S. Army (retired);
  • Leonard Wong, research professor of Military Strategy, Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College; and
  • James Young, command historian, Air Force Technical Applications Center.

The full agenda is available online.  All sessions will also be streamed live online.  Lunch will be provided for those who register for the symposium

The public conversation that evening will be moderated by Bailey and will include Lawrence Korb, Dennis Laich, Lawrence Wilkerson and Bernard Rostker. No registration is necessary to attend the public conversation.

“The question of who fights America’s wars, now and in the future, is controversial,” Bailey said. “But it’s important that civilian and military leaders understand the issues involved and be willing to address them as a matter of national security. That’s one reason this new center was established: to get beyond rhetoric and bring scholarship to bear on public policy.“

While the divisive military draft ended with the conclusion of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, noted Bailey, all male U.S. citizens and male immigrants age 18 to 25 must still register with the U.S. Selective Service System. Yet to be decided is whether women should similarly be required to register. (In February, a bipartisan bill was introduced in Congress “to repeal the Military Selective Service Act and thereby terminate the registration requirements of such Act and eliminate civilian local boards, civilian appeal boards and similar local agencies of the Selective Service System.”)

“KU has great scholarly resources, an international reputation and a close relationship with the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth,” Bailey said. “The University Press of Kansas, located in Lawrence, is one of the nation’s premier publishers of military history, and KU’s Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics hosts an ongoing Fort Leavenworth Series of lectures. So we are in an ideal position here, and we look forward to holding many future programs on topics of interest to policy makers and the public.”