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May 14, 2007

Military Recruitment & Retention: The Impact of Social and Cultural Factors

Sociological researchers to brief Senate staff on
contemporary social and cultural influences on personnel and capacity.

The reportedly overstretched U.S. military in Iraq, with troops serving unprecedented third and fourth tours, has provoked debate about military preparedness. At the same time, public controversy over the 14-year-old “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy is reemerging as increasing numbers of service members disclose sexual orientations in conflict with DADT. According the Department of Defense, 11,000 troops were discharged because of the military’s ban on openly gay service members. The importance of the scientific basis for DADT deserves attention relative to military personnel effectiveness and performance. Meanwhile, the military’s granting of “moral waivers” to applicants with criminal records has spurred some critics to say that capable soldiers are being needlessly sacrificed while recruits with drug abuse, criminal backgrounds, or insufficient education are being admitted.

In November 2006, distinguished social scientists authored an Amicus Brief filed jointly with the American Sociological Association (ASA) with the First Circuit Court of Appeals. There is no scientific evidence supporting the exclusion of openly gay or lesbian soldiers in the military in terms of military performance, according to the brief. Research on the nature of military unit cohesion fails to show detriments in performance. Of prime importance, empirical work shows, is identification with task.

While military recruitment in March of 2007 remained solid, a recent Newsweek poll indicates that 63 percent of Americans believe gays and lesbians should be able to serve openly. In addition, the U.S. Army’s tour extensions to 15 months are taking an emotional toll on families and troops. The military prides itself on structured and disciplined lifestyle. However, as the demand for troop surges heightens, as more and more soldiers are “coming out,” and as families deal with the pressures of longer tours, the military finds itself approaching a critical social-cultural crossroad. Military sociologists Dr. Morten Ender and Dr. David R. Segal, and Former Marine Sergeant Brian Fricke, will brief Senate and Capitol Hill staff on these issues affecting the military today.

WHO: Dr. Morten Ender, Associate Professor of Sociology, Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership, United States Military Academy, West Point, New York, Former Marine Sergeant Brian Fricke, who elected not to re-enlist because of the military's DADT ban on openly gay personnel, and Dr. David R. Segal, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for Research on Military Organization, University of Maryland.

: Social science briefing to the Senate and Capitol Hill staff on military recruitment and retention, and the impact of current social and cultural factors.

WHEN: Friday, May 18, 2007, 3:00 - 4:30 PM

WHERE: Russell Senate Office Building, Room 485, Indian Affairs Room, Washington, DC.

RSVP: Jesse Klempner (Rep. Meehan) at

About the American Sociological Association
The American Sociological Association (, founded in 1905, is a non-profit membership association dedicated to serving sociologists in their work, advancing sociology as a science and profession, and promoting the contributions to and use of sociology by society.