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JBSA News
NEWS | May 10, 2024

DAF leaders discuss future of all-volunteer force

By Tech. Sgt. Nick Z. Erwin Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

Department of the Air Force senior leaders emphasized the importance of the all-volunteer force and its role in helping the military to meet national defense needs during RAND Corporation’s America’s All-Volunteer Force symposium in Arlington, Virginia, on May 3.

Alex Wagner, assistant secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, and Katharine Kelley, the U.S. Space Force deputy chief of staff for Human Capital, discussed the current state of the all-volunteer force and explored innovative approaches to enhancing recruiting and talent management.

“We have two high-tech forces, an Air Force and a Space Force, and we are not only trying to attract a different type of talent from the American people but trying to hold onto them for a longer period of time,” Wagner explained.

Wagner highlighted three obstacles to efforts to better support the future of the all-volunteer force: recruiting for a different generation, improving support to family members, reimagining military careers talent management policies that were created during a different era. Current efforts to remove barriers to service of Airmen and Guardians include modernized tattoo and body composition policies, as well as accelerating naturalization at basic military training.

Wagner also highlighted the efforts to better leverage the talents of military spouses, including the Military Spouse Career Accelerator pilot, which provides 12-week fellowships at private employers for spouses and has over an 80% permanent hiring rate,

Kelley spoke about how the Space Force is also leveraging civilian employees and commercial partnerships to meet its force needs.

“We are taking advantage of a total force that is broader than just the military,” Kelley said. “… One of the things in the Space Force we can uniquely do is [use] the power of the civilian workforce sitting right next to that military Guardian, and that comprehensive team is delivering assets for the DoD mission.”

Both leaders concluded by emphasizing the importance of continuously adapting recruiting strategies to meet the evolving needs of the Air Force and Space Force in a rapidly changing world.

The U.S. military’s all-volunteer force model was established in 1973, replacing the active use of mandatory selective service, also known as the “draft” system. It ushered in a new era in which all military members are recruited via voluntary service, helping to create a dedicated force of committed and highly developed professionals.