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POSTPONED: Endless Wars and America’s All-Volunteer Force

April 1, 2020 @ 8:00 am - 5:30 pm



When the United States ended the draft and moved to an all-volunteer military in 1973, most political and military leaders assumed that if the U.S. again fought a major war the nation would reinstate the draft. Selective Service remained as a mechanism for doing so. Yet that didn’t happen: the U.S. has now fought long, costly, seemingly ceaseless campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan with an all-volunteer force (AVF).

As America’s endless wars in the Greater Middle East enter their third decade, it is high time to discuss the state of the AVF. Suicides, discipline problems, family disruption, and recruiting and retention issues all point to a force that is overstretched. Simultaneously, manpower costs, up more than 50 percent in real terms since 2001, are eating the Pentagon’s budget. While U.S. politicians and generals continue to boast about “the finest fighting force the world has ever known,” the question needs to be asked: is America’s all-volunteer force a failing experiment?

The Catholic University of America is hosting this year’s AVF Forum conference, the fifth in a series of national annual symposia examining the health of both the all-volunteer force and America’s democracy. Previous conferences were held at the University of Kansas (2016), College of William and Mary (2017), Ohio State University (2018), and Angelo State University (2019).

This all-day conference brings together national policymakers, former government officials, military officers, and academics to shed light on the state of the AVF and examine its continued viability. This year’s conference is sponsored by the Catholic University of America’s Center for the Study of Statesmanship and the College of William and Mary.

Admission to the conference is free and the public is welcome. All events will be livestreamed and available on CSS’s website. For more information, contact CSS’s Kristen Morrow, 15morrow@cua.edu.


8:00 – 9:00: Registration and Breakfast

9:00– 9:30: Opening Address: “Is America’s All-Volunteer Force Sustainable?”
Speaker: Elliot Ackerman (author)

9:30– 11:00: Panel 1: The State of the All-Volunteer Force
Panelists: Major General Dennis Laich (USA, Ret., AVF Forum), Mark Cancian (CSIS), Phil Carter (RAND), Bill Taylor (Angelo State University), Ron Cohen (attorney, moderator)

11:00 – 11:15: Coffee Break

11:15 – 12:45: Panel 2: The National Commission on National, Military, and Public Service (NCONMPS)
Panelists: Jill Rough (NCONMPS), Jud Crane (NCONMPS), Debra Warda (NCONMPS), Edward Allard III (NCONMPS), Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson (USA, Ret., moderator)

12:45 – 2:00: Lunch

2:00 – 3:00: Panel 3: Who Serves?
Panelists: Jess Blankshain (Naval War College), Amy Schafer (National Security Innovation Network), Major Danny Sjursen (USA, Ret.), Max Margulies (USMA, moderator)

3:00 – 4:00: Panel 4: Partners’ Perspectives
Panelists: Commander Jussi Jamsen (Finnish Navy), Major General Bengt Svensson (Swedish Army), Brigadier General Frank Gräfe (German Air Force), Gil Barndollar (CUA, moderator)

4:00 – 4:15: Coffee Break

4:15 – 5:15: Debate: Resolved: “America’s All-Volunteer Force Is A Failing Experiment”
Debaters: Major General Dennis Laich, Colonel Matthew Lawrence (Army War College), Colonel Margaret Cope (USAF, Ret., moderator)

5:15 – 5:30: Closing Remarks


April 1, 2020
8:00 am - 5:30 pm


Pryzbyla Great Room A
620 Michigan Ave NE
Washington, D.C., 20064 United States
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