How Have Deployments during the War on Terrorism Affected Reenlistment?

How Have Deployments during the War on Terrorism Affected Reenlistment?

How Have Deployments during the War on Terrorism Affected Reenlistment?

How Have Deployments during the War on Terrorism Affected Reenlistment?


This research sought to understand how recent deployments have affected reenlistment by examining trends in deployments and reenlistments, developing a theoretical model, and conducting an econometric analysis of survey and administrative data to identify the effect of deployment, by service, on reenlistment. It also examined the role of reenlistment bonuses in maintaining reenlistment levels during the war on terrorism.


The military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have been the United States’ longest military engagements since the Vietnam War and the most severe test of the all-volunteer force, with the possible exception of the Gulf War in 1991. More than 1.5 million service members were deployed between 2002 and 2007, many of them more than once, and the fast pace of deployment has been felt throughout the military. Soldiers and marines have faced a steady cycle of predeployment training and exercises, deployment itself, and postdeployment reassignment and unit regeneration. Service members not on deployment are nonetheless busy planning and supporting military operations, caring for injured service members, and attending to recruiting, training, and other responsibilities at home and abroad. Many service members are married, and deployments have disrupted their family routines and created stress from separation and reintegration. At the same time, the long hours, tension, uncertainty, and violence of deployments have stressed the service members sent to fight.

Remarkably, despite the pressures from deployments on service members and their families, reenlistment rates have been stable since 2002. The purpose of this monograph is to enhance understanding of whether deployments affected service members’ willingness to stay in the military, as the stress caused by deployments would suggest, and how it was that reenlistment held steady.

This monograph should be of interest to the defense manpower policy and research communities, including the branches of service, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress, and such agencies as the U.S. Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Budget Office, as well as researchers in the government, at research organizations, and in academia.

The research was sponsored by the Office of Secretary of Defense 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 Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

For inquiries about this monograph, contact James Hosek at and Francisco Martorell at, and for more information on RAND’s Forces and Resources Policy Center, contact the Director, James Hosek, by email at James_; by phone at 310-393-0411, extension 7183; or by mail at the RAND Corporation, 1776 Main Street, P.O. Box 2138, Santa Monica, California, 90407-2138. More information about RAND is available at

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