Report: Draft would hurt quality of force
By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jul 19, 2007 17:28:14 EDT

A new congressional report finds little reason to consider a return to a military draft and lots of problems if conscription were restored.

In a report released July 19, the Congressional Budget Office says drafting people into the Army could make it easier for that service to expand its active-duty force to 547,000 people by 2012, the current goal, and could save a little money in the process, especially if Congress were to reduce basic pay levels for draftees in comparison to pay for volunteers.

However, a force of draftees would be younger and less experienced, which could affect readiness.

“Usually, greater accumulated knowledge and skills come with increased experience,” the report says. “Because most draftees leave after completing a two-year obligation, a draft might affect the services’ ability to perform those functions efficiently.”

A draftee force has higher training costs, but there are savings from lower expenses for advertising, enlistment bonuses and recruiters. But the report says that may not be a wise tradeoff.

“Although including draftees in the force could yield budgetary savings, that force would not be as effective as if the same increase in end strength was achieved using only volunteers because average seniority would fall,” the report says. To get an equally effective force with draftees, the Army would have to be bigger, and bigger is more expensive.

By CBO’s estimates, the military would not need to draft more than 165,000 people a year and could use as few as 27,000. With 2 million men turning 18 in the U.S. each year, the low requirement for draftees could create a problem in deciding who goes and who stays home. And the U.S would have to face the question of whether to draft women, the report notes.

Matthew Goldberg, deputy assistant director of CBO’s national security division, said the report comes at a time when the all-volunteer force created at the end of the Vietnam War is undergoing its biggest test in Iraq, and when there are concerns about whether the military can continue to fill the ranks when at war and whether the force is representative of the nation.

While the services — especially the Army — are having more difficulty recruiting, Goldberg described the problem as “a little bit of slippage in the last two years” that did not reflect any crisis.

And, while people from the lowest and high family incomes in the U.S. are under-represented in the military, data on the people being deployed to the combat zone and the combat casualties do not show that minorities are over-represented, Goldberg said.

If anything, Caucasians are slightly over-represented in both deployments and casualties, according to the report, which also notes that because unemployment rates for white youths have increased more than for black youths in recent years, there could be a trend in which even more white males to consider enlisting.