It "makes sense" to consider a draft, war czar says
The White House's war czar said in a radio interview Friday that he thinks it makes sense militarily to consider a draft as an option for...
The Washington Post
History of draft1862-63: Confederacy and Union institute drafts, which continued through the end of the Civil War in 1865.
1917-18: Lottery-driven draft during World War I.
1940: President Franklin Roosevelt signs Selective Training and Service Act, creating the first peacetime draft and establishing the Selective Service System as a federal agency; when U.S. entered World War II, draftees required to serve until six months after war ended.
1948-1973: Draft resumed to fill vacancies in armed forces.
Dec. 1, 1969: First lottery drawing since 1942, held to determine order of calls for induction of registrants born between Jan. 1, 1944, and Dec. 31, 1950.
1973: Lottery and draft end; U.S. converts to all-volunteer military.
1975: Registration requirement for men who turn 18 suspended.
1980: Registration requirement resumes after Soviet Union invades Afghanistan, continues today.
Source: Selective Service System, Seattle Times archives
WASHINGTON — The White House's war czar said in a radio interview Friday that he thinks it makes sense militarily to consider a draft as an option for relieving war-related stresses on U.S. forces.
President Nixon abolished the draft in 1973. Although Bush administration officials and U.S. military leaders long have shunned the notion of reinstating it, Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute, Bush's top military adviser on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said the draft has "always been an option on the table" and that it "makes sense to certainly consider it."
In an interview on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Lute said the military is competing for a "very narrow slice" of high-school graduates and that the draft is one of several options to prevent the military from breaking.
"Today, the current means of the all-volunteer force is serving us exceptionally well," Lute said. "It would be a major policy shift, not actually a military but a political policy shift, to move to some other course."
He said the repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan affect not only the troops but their families, which can influence whether a service member decides to stay in the military.
"There's both a personal dimension of this, where this kind of stress plays out across dinner tables and in living-room conversations within these families," Lute said. "And ultimately, the health of the all-volunteer force is going to rest on those sorts of personal family decisions."
The military conducted a draft during the Civil War and both world wars and between 1948 and 1973. The Selective Service System has maintained a registry of 18-year-old men since 1980, after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan.
National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said Lute's comments are consistent with President Bush's stated policy in regard to any potential use of the draft. "The president believes an all-volunteer military serves the country well, and there is no discussion of returning to a draft," Johndroe said.
The comments followed an Army announcement that it had surpassed its recruiting target for July by about 2 percent, pulling nearly 10,000 new soldiers into the service last month despite what Army officials describe as one of the most difficult recruiting environments in history.
The successful month came after the Army missed its goals for both May and June by a combined total of more than 1,750, a downturn that appeared to threaten the Army's effort to recruit 80,000 new soldiers this year. But the July turnaround is an indication that the Army's new recruiting initiatives could help the service meet high summer goals before the end of the fiscal year.
Army officials announced that recruiters successfully brought in 9,973 new recruits in July — 223 more than the month's goal of 9,750, the highest monthly goal of the year. The Army now is about 1,000 recruits above its year-to-date goal but still hopes to recruit an additional 18,136 by October.
"The year-end goal is our focus," said Maj. Anne Edgecomb, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon. "These are the three largest months we recruit, and they are tough months. We have tough goals ahead, but we've put in place what we believe will help achieve these goals."
The public's growing disapproval for the Iraq war has complicated the Army's efforts to attract new soldiers who know they probably will be deployed quickly to an overseas war zone. As the Bush administration's war strategy has pushed more than 162,000 troops into Iraq amid possible 15-month tours, officials say it is increasingly difficult to sell the service to young volunteers and the parents, coaches and teachers who influence their lives.
New to the Army recruiters' tool kit is a "quick-ship" cash bonus of $20,000 that goes to recruits willing to go to basic training by the end of September. Army officials said the bonuses began July 25 and that it is too early to know their influence, but they hope it will push some recruits to enter the Army sooner than they had planned, boosting numbers for the end of the year.
Other bonuses have been increased, including a maximum $20,000 cash bonus to recruits who want to sign up for a two-year enlistment, a bonus that has been boosted twice this year, from an original bonus of $6,000 before May.
Douglas Smith, a spokesman for the Army's Recruiting Command, said Friday that the Army also is pushing more recruiters into the field to augment the 8,300 currently working full time. Army officials have asked former recruiters now in different roles to take temporary assignments in their old jobs and are offering $2,000 bonuses for each soldier they enlist.
The Army also is asking nearly 5,000 newly trained soldiers to return to their communities to talk up their first months in the service and dispel myths about basic training, and is offering them cash bonuses if they succeed in bringing in new recruits.
"We want them to go and talk amongst their friends about how the training went," Smith said. "That way we're getting a motivated, fresh, young soldier out there talking up the Army."
Before May, the Army had met its monthly goals going back almost two years, and it exceeded its goal of 80,000 recruits for the 2006 fiscal year by 635 soldiers. Pentagon officials announced Friday that the other military services' active-duty recruiting also met or exceeded goals for the month of July.
Post reporter Robin Wright
and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company
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