Brandon J. Archuleta

United States Military Academy at West Point
Department of Social Sciences

607 Cullum Road
Lincoln Hall
West Point, New York
10996 |  Visit Personal Website

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I am currently adapting my dissertation into a book manuscript for a series on American Public Policy and Management with Johns Hopkins University Press. The book, "Twenty Years of Service: Military Retirement Policy and the Long Road to Reform," examines the military personnel policy subsystem to understand and illustrate how such a small, insular, and autonomous group of actors and institutions have managed to maintain the military’s longstanding retirement policies since the end of World War II. The book's comparative advantage to other works on bureaucracy and defense policy is its qualitative, field-based approach. Through extensive fieldwork and semi-structured interviews with over 50 policymaking elites, "Twenty Years of Service" gets inside the autonomous military personnel policy subsystem and reveals how these institutions managed to monopolize military retirement policy by maintaining the rigid status quo for nearly 70 years. Interviewees include congressional staffers, veterans’ lobbyists, think tank scholars, defense journalists, and, most importantly, senior Pentagon policymakers. Few political scientists, if any, have unrestricted access to the Pentagon and its elusive policymakers. However, as a policy scholar and active duty Army officer, this author does. As the military draws down and reduced defense spending remains likely for the foreseeable future, "Twenty Years of Service" is a timely and relevant contribution to the field with lessons for scholars and policymakers wrestling with the future of American defense policy.

"The Military Pension Promise: Autonomous Policy Subsystems, Blue Ribbon Defense Commissions, and the Twenty-First Century All-Volunteer Force," Doctoral Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin, May 2015.
Abstract: Drawing from previous scholarship, contemporary policy debates, historical records, and 53 interviews with policymaking elites, this dissertation project takes a qualitative, field-based approach to expose the internal dynamics of autonomous policy subsystems. I contend that these subsystems are characterized by insular, expert-based channels of information, specialized media attention, parochial interest groups, a politically inactive – yet advantaged – target population, and an inherent lack of policy conflict. The military personnel policy subsystem operationalizes this renewed theory of autonomous policy subsystems. From the American Revolution and the Civil War through the first and second World Wars and beyond, this dissertation traces the American political development of military pension policy though the lens of the policy subsystem, documenting the subsystem’s formation, evolution, and ultimate transformation into the autonomous military personnel policy subsystem. Through field-based interviews of contemporary policy elites, I offer five key findings that contribute to the policy subsystems literature. First, high rates of congressional and bureaucratic turnover on the military personnel subcommittees and within the Pentagon are detrimental to the subsystem’s institutional memory. Second, the Pentagon marginalizes itself by stove piping expert information through bureaucratic hierarchies leaving it unresponsive to the subsystem’s demands for timely information. Third, subsystem actors see a clear distinction between power and influence within the subsystem as the congressional subcommittees on military personnel wield power and prominent Veterans’ Service Organizations wield influence. Fourth, subsystem actors search for and prioritize interinstitutional signals from policy elites. Finally, issues surrounding military social policy attract a whole new set of competing actors and institutions into the subsystem’s policymaking process. Though powerful, autonomous policy subsystems of this sort are still susceptible to breakdown and policy change. Beyond exogenous shocks and policy entrepreneurs, I contend autonomous policy subsystems are particularly vulnerable to jurisdictional threats from blue ribbon commissions chartered to gather new information, reframe policy images, alter issue definitions, and make policy recommendations. As institutional venues for policy change, blue ribbon defense commissions are well-positioned to breakdown autonomous policy subsystems and bring about meaningful policy change. The dissertation concludes with a broad set of recommendations along with ideas for future research agendas.

Substantive Focus:
Defense and Security PRIMARY

Theoretical Focus:
Policy History SECONDARY
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation