Sometimes you don’t see change because you aren’t looking at the right time scales. But in the think-tank world, we have the luxury to take a long, holistic view of trends affecting the military services across a wide range of issues and capabilities, which the drumbeat of life in the Pentagon generally does not allow. Over the course of several projects, we have noticed significant trends culminating in a sea change in service—particularly Navy—manning.
Great power competition, emerging domains such as space and cyber, and new technologies such as large-scale computing and artificial intelligence are changing the shape and role of military manpower. While volumes may be written about this, what follows are three “postcards”—self-contained statements that combine disparate data sources to offer simple insights. These are not fully fleshed out analyses, but rather short bits intended to raise awareness, start a conversation about what is happening in manpower, and begin to anticipate the consequences.
1. Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC), “U.S. Ship Force Levels: 1886-present” (2019), and Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC), “Military Personnel” Web Resource” (2019), www.dmdc.osd.mil/appj/dwp/dwp_reports.jsp. For this and subsequent plots, the blue trendlines are generated by locally estimated scatterplot smoothing (LOESS).
2. Congressional Budget Office, Growth in DoD’s Budget from 2000 to 2014 (November 2014), 5–6.
3. Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller), National Defense Budget Estimates for FY2020 (May 2019), Table 6.2.
4. Congressional Budget Office, Growth in DoD’s Budget from 2000 to 2014, 2–3.
5. Office of Personnel Management, Retirement Age & Trend Analysis of the Executive Branch: Fiscal Year 2015 to Fiscal Year 2017 (September 2018), 5–7.