Let's Start with 50K

By Kroesen, Frederick J. | Army, March 2003 | Go to article overview

Let's Start with 50K


Kroesen, Frederick J., Army


The need for increasing the size of the Army is a subject of enduring importance. Even preceding 9/11, the Army was too small for its missions; now it is too small even to assure its continued quality and capability. We are already sustaining its viability through stop-loss and extending the terms of service of our reservists.

Two recent bits of news have highlighted issues that bear on the problem. First, Congressman Charles Rangel has proposed a reinstitution of the draft. The idea has provoked a spate of newspaper columns rehashing old arguments, pro and con, about the draft, UMT (universal military training), fairness and unfairness and the comparable value and trainability of draftees and volunteers.

Most military veterans, at least the ones I know, can cite the ultimate benefits to the nation of UMT, and most see the need for relying on the draft if we become involved in a war demanding a high, long-term manpower commitment. Most military veterans, however, also recognize the benefits derived from having an all-volunteer force. Just Cause (Panama) and Desert Storm (Persian Gulf) were both demonstrations of military professionalism seldom if ever achieved in any nation's history.

Bearing on the issue are some arithmetical calculations. There are about 20 million prime, draft age 17- to 21-year-olds in our populace and about 4 million 18-year-olds who might be called prime UMT candidates. If 40 percent are unqualified either physically or mentally for military service, we would have to have training facilities and cadre to handle almost 2.5 million male and female UMT inductees. There is no way that today's military establishment could afford or manage such a task. UMT is not a practical proposition, despite the values and benefits that might be achieved.

Those same figures reveal that a draft, to maintain current strengths, even if 500 or 600 thousand per year were required, can never be fair. If preventing the unfairness of the Vietnam draft means reliance on a purely random selection among that 20 million, the one of 40 who receives a "Greetings" letter will always be the "unlucky" one, so why not stick with the all-volunteer force until we prove that it is not working? Our manpower demands are significant, but modern forces do not need the manpower resources required in World War II or Korea. …

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