The Draft

Why the army needs it.

Selective Service is in "deep standby." DOD mobilization plans call for delivering the first contingent of draftees within thirty days after a mobilization, and for having at least 100,000 in training within sixty days. Under present circumstances, it would take 110 days for the first inductee to set foot on a training base. Faced with this evidence last autumn, Congress voted down a move to reinstate draft registration 259 to 155. The rhetoric on the House floor was right out of a 1970 antiwar rally. The reality of our national mood, demonstrated in an April 1979 Gallup poll that showed 76 percent of Americans nationwide and 73 percent of those in the eligible age group favored draft registration was ignored.

The situation with the reserves is equally bleak. Individual Ready Reserves, those who are still serving out a commitment and thus are eligible to be mobilized even though they do not train with a unit, are 500,000 men short of the number considered necessary to fill the lag between mobilization and the preparation of inductees for duty. The organized reserve, which is designed to feed actual units into a theater of operations within days after mobilization, is 200,000 men short, and is a laughingstock that does not even take itself seriously. It cannot recruit: the Army Reserve is at less than half of its wartime manpower level. Defense politicians have responded by lowering reserve manpower goals to match the number of recruits they believe can be signed up. For instance, the Army claimed in 1978 that it recruited 92.5 percent of its reserve goal, although this was only 48.4 percent of wartime requirements. Nor can the reserves retain: 60 percent quit before they fulfill one tour of duty.

The Carter Administration has been on notice regarding these deficiencies for some time. Its response has been to classify part of the problem and ignore the rest of it. In late 1978, for instance, the DOD ran a paper mobilization exercise known as "Nifty Nugget," which theorized a major commitment of U.S. forces to Europe to help NATO fight a conventional war against Warsaw Pact forces. In light of the overwhelming conventional superiority Eastern European forces enjoy, and the increasing adventurism of the Soviet Union, as well as our own possible hesitation response to a conventional attack on our strategic "periphery," this is not an unlikely scenario. The results, in manpower terms alone, were devastating. As one Army planner put it, "Don't buy any Victory bonds."

Ninety days into such an engagement-twenty days before this country could even deliver a draftee to his training facility-our military would be more than one million personnel short. In some critical combat skills, we would have only 30 percent of the trained manpower needed to fight a war. We would have less than 40 percent of the doctors needed, less than 25 percent of the nurses, and less than half the enlisted medics, thus ensuring that many thousands would die for lack of care. It is impossible to measure what would happen to our aviation forces; aviators require more than a year of intense training before becoming combat-ready.

Confronted with this evidence, Army Secretary Clifford Alexander refused to discuss it, even with members of Congress in closed session. This led Congressman Robin Beard of Tennessee, a former marine and a leading proponent of military preparedness, to claim that "this is a flagrant abuse of the system and does not serve the national interest. The manner in which this information has been handled is nothing short of a national defense scandal."

There are not many members of Congress with the insight and concern of Robin Beard these days. The failure to address defense manpower issues over the past decade shows the priorities of a Congress whose members have an increasingly large lack of military experience, and whose view of the political world was shaped by the gyrations of a vocal minority during the Vietnam protest years. Of the twenty-nine members of Congress born in 1944 or later, only five have served with the active military forces, and only one is an actual combat veteran.

The volunteer Army is an unmitigated disaster. Those who discovered, after fifteen years of calculated silence, that the Vietnam draft fell disproportionately on the poor and minorities, now remain mute before the hard evidence that the cure is infinitely worse than the disease. If present enlistment trends continue, the Army will be 42 percent black by the early 1980s. White enlistees have less education than black, evidence of their socioeconomic status. More than 60 percent of enlistees are from the bottom two categories of intelligence testing. It is so hard to re-enlist a soldier that the Army is now permitting those who fail their skills qualification test to re-up, thus assuring the youth of America that, if mobilization should occur, their NCO's will be unqualified to train them, much less to function themselves. This situation is getting worse every year: in 1979, the intelligence levels of recruits and those re-enlisting were the worst since the volunteer Army began.

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