The Draft


Anytime the military is used overseas, at least when a Republican is sitting in the White House, cries go up that there is going to be a draft.  We, they say, are going to get into a big war and are going to have to conscript millions of young people in order to fight it.

It’s nonsense.  It’s nothing more than a scare tactic used to engender opposition to the sitting President and his party.

First off, creating a draft would require Congress to pass a law authorizing it.  Yes, we have selective service registration (all young men must register for Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday).  However, having the registration is not the same as having a draft.  To go the next step, using that registration to select folk for an actual draft would require a separate law, passed by Congress (with both House and Senate agreeing on final wording and each voting for the agreed on version) and signed into law by the President.

In the current Congress, one could not be passed unless at least some Democrats in the House agreed to it.  That’s not going to happen.

Second, a draft would simply not be useful.  American warfighting is not based on sending large numbers of poorly trained conscripts to soak up enemy fire and hope to overwhelm the other side by sheer force of numbers.  It is a professional force, generally highly trained and skilled.  Conscripts would be an active detriment to military operations.

But suppose that changed.  Suppose there was a complete loss of sanity among the makers of military doctrine and they decided that human wave attacks were the way to go, that throwing huge numbers at an enemy in the hope that you had more bodies than they had bullets would be a successful strategy.  And suppose Congress passed such a law.  And suppose the President signed it.

The selective service board would then have six months to deliver the first inductees to the military however the truth is, the military would not be ready for them by then.  The military has neither the facilities nor the personnel in place to receive and train them.

Since the elimination of the draft in 1973 many bases have been closed.  Others have been downsized, to fit the model of a smaller, professional military.  We would need to build and expand bases to house the new conscripts and facilities to train them.  Current facilities might be adequate to our current force (although some argue that we need more even for that) but would be wholly inadequate to a large conscript military.  And building the new facilities would take time.

Likewise, managing and training the new conscripts would require a much larger cadre of personnel to manage and train them.  That cadre would have to come from somewhere.  And the only “somewhere” available is in current active duty and reserve forces.  This means taking folk from where they are currently serving and pulling them back to train the new conscripts.  So one has to choose between how much you want to reduce current military capability (people pulled out of actual operations to be trainers) vs how many new people you can train who will, in the future, be added to your capability.

If you have a crisis critical enough to make you seriously consider a draft, then how much can you draw down current force to instead train inductees.  It does no good to have troops coming on line later (how much later, I’ll get to in a moment) if you lose now because your soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are busy training those troops.

But, let’s say you’ve got your facilities.  You’ve got your trainers.  You’ve got those conscripts entering training.  You still have months yet before the conscripts are ready to enter the field.  Twenty-two weeks for an infantry soldier.  Just over five months.  And that’s what it takes with volunteers entering of their own free will to not be too much of a hindrance when they finally reach the field.  My own specialty field, when I served in the Air Force, involve nearly eighteen months of combined basic and technical training.  And then, it took the next three to four months at my duty station to actually learn how to do the job. (Classroom vs. field are too different worlds.) And I was not slow.  In fact, the person in charge of my OJT (On the Job Training) was quite complimentary on how quickly I picked up the “real world” aspects of the job.

Do you think conscripts are going to be quicker at it?

So, we’re talking a year from the time a law implementing conscription goes into effect and the first marginally useful conscripts start appearing in the field.  There are simply no foreseeable threats where that is useful.

So, no, there isn’t going to be a draft.  Talking about it is nothing more than fear-mongering.

Don’t fall for it.

6 thoughts on “The Draft”

  1. During the George W Bush administration, some Democratic Kook in Congress submitting a bill to authorize a draft.

    His “reasoning” was that if children of Republican Congress-Critters were drafted, then the Republican Congress-Critters wouldn’t support Bush’s war.

    Of course, he was also one of these Kooks who believe people who volunteered to service in the US Military were Stupid and/or Poor.

    However, the Nasty Republicans pulled a trick on him. They scheduled his draft bill for a vote by the full (IIRC) House.

    When it came up for a vote, it failed (even the Kook voted against it). 😈


  2. One factor in the fading of the draft is the nuclear arsenal possessed by many nations. The type of large scale total wars that make a draft necessary are very unlikely as nuclear powers may become involved.
    You do get long lasting, low intensity type wars like Vietnam or Afghanistan or Iraq, but millions of draftees aren’t what that kind of conflict needs. The battlefield is different, and the needs are also different.


  3. Ironically, the only time the draft was established by a Republican President was during the Civil War. Since that time, it has been established was by Woodrow Wilson, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, and an expanded call-up by Lyndon Johnson – all Democrats – as was Jimmy Carter, who reestablished the registration requirement in the late 1970s.


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