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The one-third cut in active-duty manpower at the end of the Cold War, from 2.1 million to 1.4 million in uniform, combined with a shift in the national security environment, has today resulted in the need for longer and repeated deployments, especially for the Army and the Marine Corps, and these deployments have posed challenges for active-duty service members and for their families.

The authors undertook the preparation of this monograph with the objective of offering insights into the challenges faced by active-duty service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, the resiliency they and their families have shown in coping with these challenges, and the adequacy of defense manpower policy in assisting members and families. The monograph draws on the perspectives of economics, sociology, and psychology; provides a formal model of deployment and retention; reviews published work; reports on the results of focus groups conducted in each of the services; and presents findings from an analysis of survey data. The focus groups and survey data relate to the period from 2003 to early 2004.

Family separation, long work hours both during and preceding deployments, and uncertainty surrounding deployments were some of the more significant stresses associated with deployments that were reported in focus groups. Furthermore, according to focus-group and survey data, even personnel who did not deploy experienced work stress as a result of long hours supporting deployments. The authors use these findings to suggest ways to improve quality of life for deployed and nondeployed personnel and their families, including improved communication home, more effectively structured deployment pays, and, when possible, greater certainty in the timing and length of the deployment cycle. The findings also underscore the importance of individual and unit preparation prior to deployment and the role of unit cohesion during deployment.

The monograph may be of interest to the military services, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, individual service members and their families, members of Congress and their staff, and the media. It may also interest foreign militaries that have converted to a volunteer system and that want to be informed about the personnel strains caused by a high operating tempo.

The research descibed in this report results from the RAND Corporation’s continuing program of self-initiated independent research. Support for such research is provided, in part, by donors and by the independent research and development provisions of RAND’s contracts for the operation of its U.S. Department of Defense federally funded research and development centers.

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