The U.S. military is a major funder of basic research in the United States in the social and behavioral sciences. In the 1980s, military-funded basic research was marked by a reduced interest in the areas of organizational and individual variables that are commonly associated with motivational concepts. Even leadership, a traditional military interest, was studied mostly from the point of view of the leader, rather than from that of the individual soldier. Military research, instead, focused to a large extent on ideas emerging from cognitive psychology and computer science. Thus, research focused on the cognitive aspects of human functioning and not on motivational aspects.
In the early nineties, however, it became apparent that the military services' capabilities to draw large numbers of high quality, career-oriented recruits might not be able to be sustained in the future. Further observations during the U.S./ Allies vs. Iraq conflict in the Middle East (Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield) appeared to indicate that maintaining soldier motivation was critical to the success of a wide range of responsibilities in a large scale military operation, particularly one whose start was drawn out over several months. Applied research being conducted in environments that realistically simulate combat (e.g., the Army's National Training Center) identified unit cohesion and motivation as important variables in successful combat performance.
Motivation is particularly important to the U.S. Army. The Army is composed of many individuals of diverse backgrounds and aptitudes who are expected to perform both individually and collectively to meet performance standards. Despite this diversity, each soldier is expected to perform his or her particular job and to be interchangeable with other soldiers performing that same job. Soldiers also differ in their initial motivation for joining the Army. Some soldiers join to serve their