Need for Draft Is Dismissed by Officials at Pentagon

R.A. Hettinga rah at
Sun Oct 31 08:20:20 PST 2004


The New York Times

October 31, 2004

Need for Draft Is Dismissed by Officials at Pentagon

ASHINGTON, Oct. 30 - Rumors of a secret plan to reinstate the draft are
churning across the Internet, worrying some in Congress and even coloring
the presidential campaign, but senior Pentagon personnel officials and Army
officers insist that there is no need for a draft - and that they do not
want one, either.

 To counter public fears that conscription is returning, these officials
produced internal studies to illustrate the economic and demographic
reasons why a draft is not necessary, and why it would be a step backward
for the quality of the current all-volunteer force.

Army and Pentagon officials hope that efforts under way to reorganize the
service to form at least 43 combat brigades from today's 33 will create
additional deployable units and alleviate the stress on the Army. And as
both the Air Force and Navy shrink their personnel rosters, some of those
departing personnel are being courted by the Army in a program that also
serves as antidote to the draft.

 If a decision is made that the American military should grow, then the
Pentagon could ask Congress to finance a permanent expansion in personnel,
including enough money to attract recruits and retain those in uniform
without undercutting accounts for operations and weapons systems.

Officials note that Congressional proposals for expanding the military,
mostly in the range of 30,000 to 40,000 more troops, would hardly require a
new draft to force conscripts from across the approximately
two-million-strong cohort of current 18-year-old Americans.

In fact, the demographics of America are cited by Pentagon officials as a
major reason why the draft makes no sense today.

The Pentagon's top personnel officer, David S. C. Chu, said the size of
today's military - 1.4 million in the active component, and 1.2 million in
the National Guard and Reserve - is a much smaller percentage of a much
larger pool of possible recruits than the United States faced during World
War II and into the 1950's.

And since the military could not possibly absorb all the 18-year-olds in
the population should a draft be reinstated, there is little doubt that a
system of deferrals would be established that, just as in the Vietnam era,
could create a caste-like system separating the privileged of America from
the others.

"What do you do when not all need to be called and only a few are chosen?"
said Mr. Chu, who is under secretary of defense for personnel and
readiness. "It becomes a question of fairness."

Today's high-technology military also benefits from personnel who are
committed to staying in the service for several years, allowing the armed
services to reap full benefit from their costly training. During the draft,
soldiers were required to stay in the service for only two years. But
Pentagon studies show that current recruits need one to three years to
reach full competency in combat or support skills.

A study by Mr. Chu's office makes that point in arguing against reinstating
a draft that was allowed to lapse on July 1, 1973.

"Draftees quit early; volunteers stay - so today's midgrade and senior
noncommissioned officers are well experienced," said the study, written by
Bill Carr, deputy under secretary for military personnel policy.

"During the most recent draft, 90 percent of conscripts quit after their
initial two-year hitch, whereas retention of volunteers is five times
better - about half remain after their initial (normally four-year)
military service obligation," said the study, which was published in the
spring 2004 edition of "World Defense Systems," a military journal.

Those statistics may not be persuasive to those who believe the United
States is poised for a broader array of offensive military operations
against other adversaries that would require a draft, nor to those who feel
that a program of required national service would benefit the nation and
America's 18-year-olds.

But senior officers stress that the all-volunteer military is also more
competent, better educated and more disciplined than in the final years of
the draft.

"I served in the draftee Army," said Gen. Richard A. Cody, who is now vice
chief of staff for the Army, the service most under stress from worldwide

"Those soldiers were just as loyal as today," he said. "But it was like
Forrest Gump. You know, 'Life is like a box of chocolates.' With
conscripts, you never know what you're going to get."

General Cody said the strain to meet current global commitments cannot be
minimized - nor the strain to meet recruiting goals. But he said the young
men and women who signed up today were of a higher quality than any he had
seen in 29 years of command.

"I don't have rose-colored glasses on," General Cody said. "But we don't
need the draft and we don't want the draft. There are plenty of Americans
who still want to be in the military."

Perhaps the most often-cited reason for opposition to a draft is the
motivation of the all-volunteer force.

"The most important thing about a draft is that the people you draft, by
definition, don't all want to be there," Mr. Chu said. "The great strength
of the volunteer force is the ranks of people who all made a positive,
voluntary decision that this is what they want to do."

The current American military "is also smarter than the general population"
from which conscripts would be drawn, according to the study by Mr. Chu's
office. "Over 90 percent of new recruits have a high school diploma, while
only 75 percent of the American youth do; 67 percent score in the upper
half of the enlistment (math/verbal aptitude) test," it stated.

"These attributes translate to lower attrition, faster training and higher
performance," it concluded.

 Mr. Chu said that studies of the military also showed that the
all-volunteer force had fewer disciplinary problems than a draftee service.

 "All that comes together in the performance of the force in the field,
which is the ultimate test," Mr. Chu said. "How does this force fight? How
well does it carry out the nation's objectives? How disciplined is it in
the face of challenges? I don't think anyone can look at the events of the
three-plus years since 9/11 and not see the payoff in the volunteer force."

R. A. Hettinga <mailto: rah at>
The Internet Bearer Underwriting Corporation <>
44 Farquhar Street, Boston, MA 02131 USA
"... however it may deserve respect for its usefulness and antiquity,
[predicting the end of the world] has not been found agreeable to
experience." -- Edward Gibbon, 'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire'

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