Download eBook for Free

FormatFile SizeNotes
PDF file 1.5 MB

Use Adobe Acrobat Reader version 10 or higher for the best experience.


Purchase Print Copy

 Format Price
Add to Cart Paperback276 pages $38.00

Research Questions

  1. What designated specialties, occupational fields, and skill areas are most difficult to recruit and retain within the total force?
  2. What parts of the potential military workforce could participate in some segment of the RC to a greater degree?
  3. What policies are needed to connect those "unlikely reservists" to those unmet requirements?

Changes in employment stability, family structure, and economic pressures since the development of the U.S. military reserve component (RC) in the twentieth century have created challenges and opportunities for how the RC is used. Sustaining an operational RC demands committed reservists and guardsmen, and since, at present, the population is not meeting that demand under traditional models, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has begun to look for ways to access and retain ready participants under alternative programs.

Modified assumptions about Reserve duty have the potential to improve RC member recruitment, performance, development, and retention in critical occupational fields — and it could stem projected manpower losses or provide alternative service options in fields with highly competitive civilian industries. The research team employs an iterative, qualitative analytical process to develop a list of possible workforce constructs aimed at enhancing innovation in U.S. military personnel processes.

The findings in this report will be relevant and applicable primarily to U.S. military leaders and U.S. government policymakers. The authors provide specific recommendations and more general analysis that will be immediately applicable in developing and administering programs to facilitate access to civilian human capital to help meet DoD's most pressing requirements. This research will also be applicable to broader U.S. academic and policymaking communities that seek to understand how organizations are adapting to changes in the workforce and labor market.

Key Findings

A large and growing segment of the U.S. population is not a primary source of military manpower because of various life choices and conditions

  • Identifying where occupational characteristics may limit RC participation among some populations can suggest ways to expand that participation.
  • Trends suggest that Americans will continue becoming more accustomed to flexible employment options and will expect them in military service.

Civilian employers have developed a range of alternative work models that enhance their ability to attract and retain talent

  • These include models that reduce the degree to which time and location requirements govern the employment relationship by incorporating flexibilities in terms of when and where work is performed.

RCs offer a structural means to enable and facilitate experimentation with different structures and parameters for work

  • Each state has independent legal authority to structure duty schedules and parameters as it chooses, provided it meets federal readiness requirements.
  • Federal RCs have legal authority to experiment with duty schedules, parameters, alternative work arrangements, recruiting processes, and other policies, provided they meet operational requirements.

Nondefense federal agencies and state and local governments already utilize flexible workforce models

  • At the federal level, alternative work schedules, telework, and a range of part-time, temporary, and seasonal work arrangements exist across the agencies.
  • State and local governments have long incorporated part-time, on-call, and seasonal workers, and many are building additional flexibilities into their full-time work offerings.

Advances in technology contribute to the development of innovative workforce models

  • Technology can enhance employers' ability to incorporate flexible scheduling practices.
  • Technology is a major driver of telework and remote work options that can broaden the pool of talent from which employers can draw.


  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) should actively encourage service-level efforts to implement their workforce constructs presented in the report, if one or more services agreed that it would be worth applying to solve their particular manpower shortage.
  • OSD should continue to assess its access to required talent — now and in the future — as well as the extent to which current manpower policies enhance or reduce the propensity and ability of Americans to serve.
  • OSD and the services should continue to assess the extent to which their workforce practices converge or diverge from common practices in the civilian workforce.
  • The services should authorize their RCs to experiment with alternative work structures where a demonstrable need exists and where the alternative work structure appears likely to meet that need.
  • The RCs should regularly consider how technological innovation can promote greater innovation in when and where individuals perform their service and the extent to which they need to be present at the same time in the same place to train successfully.
  • OSD and the services should continue to support such efforts as duty-status reform, which will add more flexibility and simplicity to the system and mirror advances in reserve force management adopted by allied countries.

This research was sponsored by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Integration and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower and Reserve Affairs 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.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

This document and trademark(s) contained herein are protected by law. This representation of RAND intellectual property is provided for noncommercial use only. Unauthorized posting of this publication online is prohibited; linking directly to this product page is encouraged. Permission is required from RAND to reproduce, or reuse in another form, any of its research documents for commercial purposes. For information on reprint and reuse permissions, please visit

RAND is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis. RAND's publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of its research clients and sponsors.