WASHINGTON – The number of veterans serving in Congress has steadily dropped in recent decades, according to a study by the Congressional Research Service.
When the 115th Congress convened in January, 102 active or former military members were included among its ranks. Cumulatively that accounts for 18.8 percent of total membership.
The breakdown by chamber is 82 veterans in the House and 20 in the Senate.
Though the 114th Congress included 101 members with military experience when it convened in January 2015, the previous Congress included 108 members with military experience when it convened.
The slight drop in recent years stands in stark contrast with the large number of veterans who served in Congress during previous decades.
Sixty-four percent of lawmakers in the 97th Congress (1981-1982) had military experience and in the 92nd Congress (1971-1972) 73 percent of lawmakers had military experience.
Rebecca Burgess, program manager of the American Enterprise Institute’s Program on American Citizenship, told TMN that the decline in the number of veterans serving in Congress in part mirrors the decline in overall military recruitment since 1973.
“With the start of the all-volunteer force and the decline in large wars that America has fought, we’ve just needed less soldiers, and so there has been a smaller pool to draw from,” she said.
Burgess went on to say that the decline in the number of veterans serving in Congress is greater than that of the decline in the number of veterans in the general population.
Burgess said lawmakers with military experience have a more personal understanding of what it means to serve.
“They have a greater appreciation or awareness of what is needed to support a military, how that extends to military families and then veterans overall,” she explained.