Since the start of the Global War on Terror in 2001, the religious affiliations of the Army have seen some change, according to a recent report released by the RAND Corporation.

The report was prepared for the Army’s top chaplains to help them determine appropriate adjustments to the religious makeup of the service’s chaplain corps.

Enlisted troops from the active duty force have seen the biggest changes, the report said. Overall, the enlisted force is more Protestant and less Catholic than the general U.S. population.

According to the researchers, who based their analysis on Army data and figures representative of the whole U.S., the enlisted Regular Army has seen a increase in the number of Protestant Christian soldiers since fiscal 2000. That increase comes despite a decline in the number of Protestants in the general U.S. population during the same period, the report said.

Additionally, the proportion of enlisted Catholic troops in the active duty force has declined over the same time period, the researchers found. They are now slightly underrepresented compared to the overall U.S. population.

RAND said it couldn’t definitively determine why the shifts have occurred, but the report suggests it could be because “people with certain identities” have become more likely to join and remain in the Army, or because the Army may target certain regions more heavily for recruitment than others.

The report also compares officers’ religious preferences to those of enlisted troops. Overall, officers are more likely to list a religious preference, and they have seen similar but smaller shifts in their affiliations compared to the enlisted population.

The researchers believe that over the next five years, the share of enlisted troops reporting no religious preference will increase. They also project that officers’ preferences will remain roughly stable.

Davis Winkie is a senior reporter covering the Army, specializing in accountability reporting, personnel issues and military justice. He joined Military Times in 2020. Davis studied history at Vanderbilt University and UNC-Chapel Hill, writing a master's thesis about how the Cold War-era Defense Department influenced Hollywood's WWII movies.

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