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Research Questions

  1. How did the services conduct previous drawdowns and what happened to demographic diversity of the force during those drawdowns?
  2. How might the demographic diversity of the DoD workforce be affected in a future drawdown?
  3. What policy options are available to DoD and the services to address a potentially negative impact of a drawdown on demographic diversity?

In January 2012, the Department of Defense (DoD) announced plans for a large-scale reduction — or drawdown — of its military force. The last drawdown to affect all four DoD services occurred in the 1990s, after the end of the Cold War. During that period, the military shrank by almost 37 percent, from about 2.17 million in FY 1987 to 1.37 million by FY 2000. Despite having a variety of goals and strategies for the 1990s and mid-2000s drawdowns, the services had few, if any, explicit diversity goals or strategies related to the drawdowns. Based on our discussions with force management experts, demographic diversity is also not part of their recent drawdown goals and strategies. However, the drawdown could have unintended consequences for demographic diversity even when diversity is not part of drawdown decisionmaking. To address the issue of unintended consequences of drawdowns on diversity, the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) asked RAND to analyze how force reductions could affect the demographic diversity of the DoD workforce. Our study focuses on gender and race/ethnicity, although we include other individual differences, such as education, in some analyses.

Key Findings

Previous Active-Duty Force Reductions Did Not Generally Decrease Demographic Diversity

  • Despite major reductions in the size of the active-duty force in all four services in the 1990s, demographic diversity generally increased.
  • Although the Navy and Air Force reduced their active-duty forces in the mid-2000s, demographic diversity of those forces generally increased between fiscal years 2001 and 2011.

Specific Drawdown Effects on Demographic Diversity are Unclear

  • Drawdown decisions do not have clear-cut ties to demographic diversity because the services do not make drawdown decisions with demographic goals in mind.

Certain Drawdown Strategies Could Affect Demographic Diversity

  • Three categories of workforce characteristics are used to separate active-duty personnel in drawdowns: experience, occupational specialty, and merit. Any of these could affect demographic diversity due to uneven distribution of demographic groups across the three categories.
  • Cuts to nontactical operational occupations could adversely affect women and blacks; cuts to tactical operational occupations could adversely affect Hispanic men; cuts based on long service may adversely affect black personnel, but cuts based on short service could adversely affect women; tightening accessions standards could adversely affect both women and minorities.


  • We recommend that services not be required to make drawdown decisions based on gender, race, ethnicity, or other protected status, given legal restrictions on using demographic information in employment decisions.
  • However, the services should anticipate potential consequences of drawdown decisions by analyzing potential adverse impacts in advance of implementing particular drawdown policies. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) should develop policy and direct that such analyses be performed, with assistance from the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity in executing these analyses.
  • The Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity should validate the services' predecision analytic results, which will require the Defense Manpower Data Center to acquire more detailed data for validation.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Active-Duty Drawdown in the 1990s

  • Chapter Three

    Navy and Air Force Active-Duty Drawdowns in the Mid-2000s

  • Chapter Four

    Law, Policy, and Plans for Recent Active-Duty Drawdowns

  • Chapter Five

    Potential Impact of Recent Drawdowns on Demographic Diversity in Active-Duty Force

  • Chapter Six

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Reserve Component Drawdowns

  • Appendix B

    Civilian Drawdowns

  • Appendix C

    Methodology and Additional Results for Chapters Two to Four

  • Appendix D

    Overview of Tools Available for Recent Drawdown

This research was sponsored by the Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity (ODMEO) in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel and Readiness) and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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