(Adapted from Peter D. Feaver, Richard H. Kohn, and Lindsay P. Cohn, “Introduction,” Soldiers and Civilians: The Civil-Military Gap and American National Security, Peter D. Feaver and Richard H. Kohn, eds., [Cambridge: MIT Press, 2001])
The TISS project undertook a comprehensive comparison of civilian and military values, attitudes, opinions, and perspectives. To explore these across a wide segment of civilian and military elites and the mass public, the project completed a broad, in-depth survey of some 4891 respondents representing three key groups: the general public, influential civilian leaders, and up and-coming military officers. The methods employed in conducting these surveys as well as reports on sub-sample response and sub-sample characteristics are described in greater detail in Janet Newcity, “Description of the 1998-1999 TISS Surveys on the Military in the Post Cold War Era.”
The project’s survey instrument was designed to generate data that would be comparable to data obtained by earlier surveys of attitudes about foreign and domestic policy. The survey sought responses to some 250 questions covering a range of issues: from the respondent’s social and religious values to views on national security policy, and from military professionalism to the civil military relationship itself. Between fall 1998 and spring 1999, the survey instrument was mailed to civilian leaders and administered to military officers in person and electronically at various military educational institutions.
To reach the group that our studies refer to as “civilian elite” or “civilian leaders,” we followed procedures developed by Ole Holsti and James Rosenau in the Foreign Policy Leadership Project (FPLP). To achieve a broad, comprehensive sample, eight subsamples were chosen to receive the survey, drawn from the following lists: “Who’s Who in America,” and other directories of prominent Americans in the categories of “Clergy,” “Women,” “American Politics,” “State Department,” “Media,” “Foreign Affairs,” and “Labor.” Our elite civilian sample generated 989 responses out of 3435 requested.
We sought to reach a comparable group of military officers, which we refer to as “military elite,” “up-and-coming military officers,” or “military leaders.” We defined this group as “officers whose promise for advancement has been recognized by assignment to attend in residence the professional military education course appropriate for their rank.” Thus, our military sample of 2901 respondents (out of 5889 surveys sent out) is not meant to be a sample of the entire military, which would include both officers and enlisted, nor even of the entire officer corps. The elite military sample is drawn just from among officers on active duty, as well as those in the Reserves and National Guard, who are likely to emerge as leaders and are likely to be promoted. These officers come from the pool of those military leaders that shape the military profession in America and function as the custodians of military culture over time. While the rank and file is somewhat less central to civil-military controversies, it is by no means of trivial concern and has, in fact, received close scrutiny in a parallel study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “American Military Culture in the 21st Century” (Washington, D.C.: CSIS, January 2000).
Our sample covers the active and reserve officer corps of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines, at four stages of advancement. For the first category, that of officer candidates before commissioning, we administered the survey at the U.S. Military Academy, the Naval Academy, the Air Force Academy, and at a sample of Army and Navy ROTC units across the country. To reach the staff college level (officers roughly a decade PLUS into their careers), we surveyed students in the resident courses at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College and the Naval War College (junior class). For the war college level (officers roughly 17 PLUS years into their career), we surveyed students in the resident courses at the Army War College, the Naval War College, the National War College, and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces. For generals, the so-called “baby flags,” or officers at roughly the twenty-five year mark who have been selected for promotion to brigadier general or rear admiral, we surveyed current attendees and recent graduates of the Capstone course at the National Defense University. We also surveyed Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Reservists who were at comparable stages of their military careers and who took courses by correspondence from the Army War College, the Naval War College, and the National Defense University.
A shortened version of the survey instrument was also administered by telephone to a representative random national sample of 1001 members of the general public during September and October 1998. The survey was conducted for TISS by Princeton Survey Research Associates.
After extensive consultations with the project team and board of advisors, we broke down our basic questions – what is the nature of the gap, what factors shape it, and what does it matter – into nearly two dozen research questions. For instance, we asked, “How does the civil-military gap affect the management of the military during the use of force?” We commissioned a series of 21 original studies (including a bibliographic survey and our own method description) investigating those questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives, marshaling the efforts of some two dozen experts. The studies draw upon both the original data generated by the TISS survey and other sources.
Of necessity, we had to narrow the scope of the project in several ways. We focused our investigation on relations between the officer corps and civilian society, and within the officer corps on the four categories described. Other important questions, such as the role of the Reserves in bridging any gap between civilian and military, could only be treated briefly. On many issues, we have collected extensive data that have yet to be analyzed, opening the way to future research and discoveries.
The dataset is archived and publicly available at the Odam Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.