Another noteworthy trend has been the increasing age of the Army's active-duty personnel over the past two decades. This has continued throughout the history of the all-volunteer force, as experience levels (number of months or years in service) have risen across the board. The Army's smaller career force has also extended its efforts to recruit enlisted personnel who are somewhat older than the traditional 18- or 19-year-old youth fresh out of high school. In 1989, over 62 percent of all new Army recruits were 19 years old or younger, including 33 percent at age 18 and more than 6 percent at age 17. In 1996, just about half (53 percent) of the Army's recruits were 19 years old or younger, with 27 percent at age 18 and fewer than 4 percent at age 17. (By law, recruits must be between 17 and 36 years old, and those who are 17 must have parental permission.)
Compared with the other military services, the Army has recently tended to take relatively larger proportions of older recruits (over age 21) and lower proportions of younger recruits (17 to 18 years old) (U.S. Department of Defense, 1997). Overall, in 1990, approximately 72 percent of the Army's active-duty enlisted population (men only) were under the age of 30; 6 years later, this proportion had fallen to 66 percent. Some people have referred to this trend as the "maturing" of the Army. Two related consequences, one considered positive and the other negative, have been attributed to this so-termed maturing: higher levels of experience tend to translate into improved performance, allowing (in theory) for a trade-off between quality and quantity; at the same time, older soldiers tend to place a greater demand on the personnel support framework (since they have more dependents) and they cost more (with higher salaries, a greater expense for moving families, and so on).
The demographic trends in the U.S. population described in Chapter 2 and their effects on the general workforce are expected to have both direct and indirect effect on the characteristics of Army personnel. For example, as the proportion of minorities increases in the general population, manpower planners expect to see a corresponding, but smaller, increase of minorities in the Army's ranks; as the mean age of American workers rises, so, too, will the mean age of Army personnel; and, as more women enter the American labor force, most observers anticipate an increasing