The purpose of this project was to investigate the gap between the military and American society: its extent, whether it is growing or narrowing, and the implications for military effectiveness and civil-military cooperation. The project produced the most systematic and comprehensive data ever collected analyzing civil-military attitudes, perspectives, and opinions. The studies analyzing those data and integrating them with other sociological, interpretive, and historical data are being published in prominent academic and policy outlets, thus offering a research agenda for the coming years not only on a gap between military and civilian, but on civil-military relations more generally. The project results stimulated extensive discussion in the national and international media and received concentrated attention from civilian and military policymakers at the highest levels of the United States government. Numerous follow-on projects have been launched assessing the TISS findings, amplifying them, and putting them into comparative perspective, thus ensuring that the project will have continuing impact for many years to come.
A central and recurring problem for American policy makers has been the need to reconcile the distinctive culture and mission of the armed forces with America’s democratic ideals and practices. The issue has returned with a vengeance since the end of the Cold War and is at the center of much of the recent controversy attending military policy. Our project advanced public discussion of these issues by providing objective, dispassionate, focused, scholarship and policy analysis, including new data in the form of opinion surveys of military and civilian elites, and the civilian general population.
The project marshaled sophisticated methods of survey research, cultural and political analysis, and historical inquiry, to address a tailored set of questions about the nature and significance of the gap between military and civilian culture, including:
Do post-Cold War military attitudes, opinions, and perspectives diverge from those in civilian society, and if so, why?
Is this divergence, if it exists, growing, and if so, why? How does the culture gap affect policy in the areas of grand strategy, operations, and force structure? Does a widening gap lead to civilian ignorance of, or insensitivity to, military culture and ultimately to policies, directives, or undertakings that undermine the military? How does, or might in the future, a divergence or gap affect civil-military relationships? Surveys of civilian and military elites and the general public were completed in Spring 1999. Drafts of the studies were released to the public in late October 1999 and produced a public debate conducted in the media and in policymaking circles through Spring 2001. Versions of the studies have been published in The National Interest (Fall 2000), Armed Forces & Society (Winter 2001), and in Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security (MIT University Press, 2001).