Hidden Agenda: A National Draft in the Future?
By Howard Dean
Monday 20 September 2004
A key issue for young Americans and their families to consider as they prepare to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential election is the real likelihood of a military draft being reinstated if President Bush is re-elected. President Bush should tell us now whether he supports a military draft.
# Here is the evidence that makes a draft likely: The U.S. Army has acknowledged that they are stretched thin and that finding new recruits is challenging. They recently placed 300 new recruiters in the field. Bonuses for new recruits to the Army have risen by 67 percent to a maximum of $10,000 and $15,000 for hard-to-fill specialties.
# The extended tours of duty have made service less attractive for both the regular armed forces, and particularly for the National Guard and Reserves. To meet this year's quota for enlistees, the Army has sped up the induction of "delayed entry" recruits, meaning they are already borrowing from next year's quotas in order to meet this year's numbers.
# Reservists are now being called away for longer periods. In 2003, President Bush dramatically extended the length of time for the Guard and Reserves deployment in Iraq. Extended tours of up to a year have become common.
# In a further sign of a lack of adequate staffing, the armed forces are now in the process of calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserves. These are often older reservists usually waiting retirement. They are typically in their mid-to-late forties, and have not been on active duty and have not trained for some time. Traditionally, they are only supposed to be called up during a time of national emergency. In 2001, President Bush authorized their call up but never rescinded this order even after he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq in May of 2003.
# The Armed Forces are already chronically understaffed. In 2003, General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress that an additional 50,000 troops would be needed beyond what the Bush administration said would be necessary to stabilize Iraq after the invasion. The President ignored him. We do not have enough troops in Afghanistan to be able to stabilize the country, as shown by the continual putting off of elections well past their announced date. In an effort to free up yet more troops in the coming years, we are moving troops away from the Demilitarized Zone in Korea and reducing the number of troops on the Korean Peninsula at a time when North Korea poses more of a danger to the U.S. - not less. Because of the President's military adventurism, our Armed Forces are under enormous pressure. The only place to go for more troops is a draft.
# Selective service boards have already been notified that 20-year-olds and medical personnel will be called up first.
President Bush will be forced to decide whether we can continue the current course in Iraq, which will clearly require the reinstatement of the draft. The Pentagon has objected to a draft but, the President has ignored other Pentagon recommendations in the past.
American families and young people are owed an explanation about the President's plans. Will the President withdraw from some of our military commitments or will he reinstate the draft? We need to know that before we vote, not afterwards.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates. Email Howard Dean.
YubaNet.com - 20 Sept 04