Total Volunteer Force: Returning Autonomy To Our Armed Forces

Tuesday, June 6, 2017
Total Volunteer Force by Hoover fellow Tim Kane

The Hoover Institution Press today released Total Volunteer Force, which analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of the US armed forces leadership culture and personnel management, yielding a blueprint for reform that empowers enlisted personnel as well as officers. The book comes at a critical time for the US military. The Trump administration has indicated it wants to devote more resources to military programs, with an emphasis on reforming the Department of Defense. Kane’s reform proposals aim to move military personnel policies further along the spectrum of volunteerism, emphasize greater individual agency during all stages of a US military career, and restore command authority.

Total Volunteer Force by Hoover fellow Tim Kane

“Tim Kane provides a cogent analysis for how the Pentagon’s current HR systems and policies are undermining the effort to attract, train, and retain the talented men and women who volunteer to serve,” said Charles A. O'Reilly III, the Frank E. Buck Professor of Management at the Graduate School of Business Stanford University. “This book offers straightforward suggestions for how the system can be fixed, with lessons for organizations of all kinds. For anyone who has served in the military, or anyone who cares deeply about it, this book is essential reading.”

The Pentagon is the largest employer in the world and the most costly bureaucracy in the United States. One of President Trump’s first executive orders calls for a review of bureaucratic waste within the Pentagon and finding ways to improve the needs of our service members. In Total Volunteer Force Tim Kane suggests a series of personnel reforms. Taken together, those reforms are an evolutionary step in the same direction as the All-Volunteer Force reform of 1973. Kane presents twenty specific recommendations to strengthen the principles of volunteerism and service and reduce coercion and inflexible bureaucracy.

 “A loss of exceptional talent would be a massive risk to any organization's success; in the US military's case, it impacts our national security. Tim Kane lays out a thoughtful, actionable plan aimed at addressing these issues, centered on a core set of principles that are embraced by many successful organizations: incentivize and reward performance over seniority, give leaders—not bureaucracies—control over critical personnel decisions, and align our service members’ careers with their strengths and interests,” said Don Faul, CEO of Athos. 

About the Author

Tim Kane is the JP Conte Fellow in Immigration Studies at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. A graduate of the US Air Force Academy, he served as a US Air Force intelligence officer with two tours of overseas duty in Seoul, South Korea, and Tokyo, Japan.

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About the Hoover Institution: The Hoover Institution, Stanford University, is a public policy research center devoted to the advanced study of economics, politics, history, and political economy—both domestic and foreign—as well as international affairs. With its eminent scholars and world-renowned Library & Archives, the Hoover Institution seeks to improve the human condition by advancing ideas that promote economic opportunity and prosperity and secure and safeguard peace for America and all mankind.

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