Despite its best intentions and a significant commitment of resources, the U.S. Army is not effectively fulfilling its institutional responsibility to adequately prepare its departing veterans to enter into productive civilian life and employment at the conclusion of their time in uniform.
The combination of an ineffectual understanding of the complex dynamics of adult transition, a reliance on flawed assumptions regarding the nature of private sector employment, and a misplaced faith in the viability of historical models has resulted in the estimated 2.6 million veterans of the “Gulf War-II era” being insufficiently prepared to reintegrate into a civil society that is less familiar with the culture and experiences of military service than at any time in history.
These shortfalls are contributing to staggering (and ever-accelerating) human, economic and social costs. The long-term consequences of these costs will likely erode the nation’s relationship with its Army, negatively influence the next generation of eligible citizens’ propensity to join the service, and gravely threaten the existence of the All-Volunteer Force. The challenge is daunting. To understand and ultimately overcome it will require the Army to introspectively evaluate its assumptions and practices, and to collaborate with external partners in new ways.