Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: The U.S. military will be reinstating the draft by Spring 2005.
Example: [congress.org, 2004]
Origins: As U.S. military involvement in Vietnam came to an end in 1973, so did the draft. For the first time since the days of World
As recent U.S. military involvement in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq has required the largest commitment of American troops since the mid-1970s, and the military has had to double the deployment periods of some units, call up additional reserves, and extend tours of duty by a year in order to maintain adequate staffing levels, the specter of a resurrected draft has been looming on the mind of many a young person. Although the possibility of a reinstatement of conscription cannot be ruled out, a renewal of the draft anytime soon appears unlikely, and one implemented as early as June 2005 seems rather improbable.
As reflected in the message quoted above, the draft issue has largely come to public attention due to pair of bills introduced in Congress (S.89 and H.R.163) which seek to obligate all citizens and residents of the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 26 (both male and female) to perform a two-year period of national service (not necessarily as part of the military), and the Selective Service's advertising for volunteers to man
The Selective Service also maintained that the timing of ads to fill draft board positions was coincidental, part of a process of filling expired board positions that had been underway for several years:
About 10,000 to 12,000 people serve 20-year terms as unpaid board members. [Selective Service spokesman Pat] Schuback said because the current board system was set up in 1979, and the bulk of volunteers stayed the fullOpinions — from both those inside and outside the military — differ as to what the manpower requirements of the U.S. armed forces will be in the near future, and whether the services will be able to continue to meet those requirements under the current all-volunteer system. And certainly not everyone agrees that general conscription is the best solution to potential staffing shortfalls, for a variety of reasons:
That means hiring replacements has been going on for several years. Confusion arose in recent weeks when someone posted the hiring notice on www.defendamerica.mil, a Pentagon Web site about the war on terror, even though the Selective Service System is not a part of the Defense Department.
"Serve Your Community and the Nation — Become a Selective Service System Local Board Member," it said.
Several newspapers around the world wrote stories, leading to questions about whether the government was planning to restart drafting enlistees. The stories appeared as news media wrote increasingly about the Pentagon's extensive mobilization of National Guard and Reserve troops for duty in Iraq.
"It was a case of bad timing because of the war in Iraq and news about deployments," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said of the Web posting. "It created a tempest in a teacup."
While many in the military support conscription on the grounds of social equity or national service, nearly all professional soldiers think that bringing back the draft now would reduce the quality of the military, while driving up its cost.Since a reimposition of conscription would require Congressional approval, which has not yet been given, it is unlikely that a draft (even if approved by Congress) would be underway as early as
"The draft would be the Army's worst nightmare," said retired Lt. Col. Leonard Wong, now a research professor at the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle Barracks. "We have a high quality Army because we have people who want to be in it. Our volunteer force is really a professional force. You can't draft people into a profession."
A fundamental problem with a draft today, experts say, is that the historic two-year period of conscription isn't enough time to get a return on the investment in training that modern soldiers require. "There's just too much equipment [draftees] could break," Pike said.
A related problem: the cost of feeding, clothing, training and paying a large influx of unskilled personnel would gobble up funds the military needs for other purposes.
"We're a personnel-based institution," Wong said. "If we have a lot more people walking in the door, it would suck up all of our resources."
And even if the draft were reinstated tomorrow, it would take at least two years before it could produce additional soldiers for Iraq and Afghanistan, the experts say.Even if the draft started up again, it might be of a much more limited nature than in previous years, with only those who could fill specialized positions in certain fields (e.g., health care, linguistics, computer technology) being conscripted.
"It will take 193 days from the time that we get started until the first person is presented to the Department of Defense," said Alyce Burton, a spokeswoman for the Selective Service. It would then take a year and a half to two years to train the draftees and form them into new combat units, Krepinovich said.
There is no definitive answer to the question of whether or not the U.S. will reinstitute a draft. Obviously some thought has been given to the issue, but the possibility that such thoughts will be turned into reality appears rather small at this point, and President Bush has stated that there will be no resumption of the draft during his presidency. Still, conditions and attitudes can change very
Last updated: 6 October 2004
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