Creating operational advantage through military diversity

Military personnel meeting in computing facility, photo by Gorodenkoff Productions OU/Adobe Stock

Gorodenkoff Productions OU/Adobe Stock

What is the issue?

A lack of diversity in public institutions, including defence and security establishments, is a subject of considerable debate and policy action. Most Armed Forces have criteria for who is – and who is not – eligible to join the profession, such as age and physical requirements, and are therefore not equal opportunity employers. But in recent decades, advances in technology have made warfighting more complex and the range of skills required more diverse.

By excluding sections of society from joining the military, the Armed Forces may omit people with a wide range of skillsets that could benefit military operations. Accordingly, many experts argue that today’s militaries should adapt their personnel requirements and recruitment practices to incentivise diversification of the workforce.

How are we helping?

Previous RAND research examined the policies of militaries to manage, and increase, the diversity of their workforces. In this study, researchers from RAND Europe and RAND Corporation will build on this line of work to consider how this diversity may create strategic opportunities for military organisations. Shifting the focus from ethical considerations to demonstrate the practical advantages of a diverse force could encourage military leaders to strive for a force composition with a wide range of skills and abilities that would maximise mission success.

The project team will conduct case studies, workshops and interviews with subject matter experts as well as stakeholders within the US and UK Armed Forces to develop an assessment toolkit to help military leaders understand how they could leverage the full range of their forces’ attributes. This will provide a practical output for use by operational commanders and decision-makers, thus moving beyond academic debate on the links between diversity and operational effectiveness.