Nov. 20, 2006 – Citing the all-volunteer force's success, a senior Defense Department official said today that a draft would diminish the quality of U.S. forces and put more of the burden of service on the nation's poor. "I think the draft is opposed by anybody who has given it serious thought," said Bill Carr, deputy undersecretary of defense for military personnel policy.
New York Rep. Charles Rangel - in line to be the next chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee in the House - said he will introduce legislation in the next session of Congress to reinstate the draft.
Carr said the draft is not cost-effective and would force the military to lower its standards for recruits. A Government Accountability Office report, he said, estimated that a draft would add $4 billion in annual costs to DoD. Because draftees usually spend the minimum time they possibly can in the military, the services would have to pump more money into training and would get less return on their training investments than they do with the all-volunteer force, he explained.
One argument often put forward for reinstating the draft is that it would make the military more equitable. But Carr said such equity would lower the force's quality.
"I think that it would make the military more average, and the military is considerably above average today," Carr said. "Two-thirds of our recruits are from the top half aptitude (range), whereas an average or equitable share would be only half. Moreover, we draw disproportionately from the middle class and the upper class. The underrepresented (in the military) are the poor. A draft would only shift the burden toward the poor."
Proponents for the draft say that the military cannot make the all-volunteer force work. This belies 33 years of experience, Carr said, noting that all services continue to make the recruiting goals and the recruiters continue to draw "above-average, exceptionally well-qualified young people."
Retention is the best it has ever been, Carr said. Under the draft, two-thirds of the military were in their first two years of service. Today, two-thirds of the men and women in the force have served at least six years.
As to whether there's enough Army for the jobs around the world -- the 3rd Infantry Division headquarters, for example, will begin its third year-long rotation to Iraq next year - Carr said making the military larger has drawbacks.
"If you have a large number of rotations, you could stand to have a larger military," Carr acknowledged. "But, what goes up inevitably must come down. If we were to grow the military and find ourselves in a few years shrinking it, that is one thing military leaders fear, because of the bond we created with those who joined us."
If the Army temporarily needs more people, then the president can call up the reserve components, Carr said.
If the idea is to make the active duty Army larger, then the military would find itself shedding people in the future, he said. The services are working to make the most of their current ceilings on uniformed members by converting manpower authorizations that don't require a person in uniform to civilian positions, Carr said. This approach, he explained, puts more military people into uniquely military positions.
Proposals to reinstate the draft certainly create debate in America, Carr noted. "But the debate inevitably comes to the conclusion that America won't have (a draft), and the military would resist it because it's going to lower our performance," he said. "The all-volunteer force is successful beyond the wildest expectations of its framers."
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