UMD Researchers to Study Evolution of U.S. Military Professionalism

The Army Research Institute has awarded the University of Maryland’s Center for Research on Military Organization(CRMO) an $810,000 grant to conduct a comprehensive study on what it means to be a military professional in the modern century. It will be the first study of its kind on the subject in more than 60 years.   

Led by CRMO Director Meredith Kleykamp, PhD, and research associate Thomas Crosbie, PhD, the study will focus mainly on high-ranking officials in all branches of the military. Researchers will investigate the standards and expectations to which military officials hold themselves accountable and whether those benchmarks have evolved over the past half-century.  

When a scandal breaks out involving a member or members of the military, Kleykamp notes, officials are quick to point to a lack of “professionalism.”

“Given that the military sees professionalism as the solution, we would like to help them understand whether and how professionalism could or should be altered to address problems,” said Kleykamp. “What does military professionalism really mean?”

Kleykamp and Crosbie will collect data over the next three years through three avenues: creating a database of biographical details for generals and admirals across the military; conducting personal interviews with 100 sitting generals or admirals; surveying 800+ students in professional military schools, known as war colleges, preparing to enter higher military ranks.

UMD researchers aim to update the classic 1960 study by Morris Janowitz titled The Professional Soldier that laid the foundations for the field of military sociology. The UMD research team will modernize this study utilizing innovations in data collection, interview protocol and survey development, for which they plan to consult with the Joint Program in Survey Methodologyat the University of Maryland.

“It seems especially compelling to do this research now considering the way the modern military works in the new century. We’ve seen radical changes in how wars are fought and who our enemies are,” said Kleykamp. “This will create a comprehensive, on-the-ground understanding of what it means to be a military professional right now.”

Researchers anticipate their findings may also help revise professional military education and foster discussion about redefining military ethics.

About the Center for Research on Military Organization: Since its establishment in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland in 1995, the CRMO has been very active in carrying out research, teaching, and outreach activities. Its primary purpose is to: coordinate research on the sociology of military institutions, war, and peacekeeping and those who participate in these institutions; conduct basic and applied research on military organization, military members, veterans and their families; train the next generation of military sociologists; serve as a nucleus for communication among social scientists conducting research on the military through publication of research findings and sponsorship of scientific conferences; and serve as a resource for policy makers so that decisions can be informed by the most recent social science research.

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