Here we go again. Ever since the First Gulf War (1990), hardly a year goes by where we aren't inundated by rumors of re-instatement of a military draft. I wrote the first version of this article in 1999, because all of the services (except the Marine Corps) had missed their annual recruiting goals for several years in a row, and President Clinton had made the decision to attack Kosovo. Rumors of an impending draft were rampant.
I've updated the article every year since, when various situations caused the draft rumor to re-raise its ugly head. For nine years in a row, I've consistently predicted that a new draft was not imminent.
In December 2007, the Selective Service System announce that it plans to conduct a comprehensive test of the draft system sometime in 2009. This, coupled President Bush increasing our force size in Iraq, has caused a flurry of newspaper editorials, speculating about the possibility of a draft. More about all of this, later in this article.
Before the last congressional elections, the rumor flying around was that the Republicans were secretly discussing plans to re-instate the draft. Now that the Democrats have won control of the House and Senate, the current rumor which is causing folks to e-mail me is that the Democrats plan to bring back a draft. Come on folks, at least let's be consistent.
I'm going to put my neck on the line and again predict that the chances of a draft happening in the foreseeable future are small. Here's why:
Draft Legislation. First and foremost, understand that the President, alone does not have the authority to re-institute the draft. In order to implement a draft, Congress would first have to pass a law to authorize it, and the President would have to sign the bill into law (or at least not veto it).
Shortly after the invasion of Iraq, Senator Ernest F. Hollings (D-SC) and Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) introduced bills into the House and Senate to require two years of military service (or community service for those who are medically unqualified) for every male and female in the United States, between the ages of 18 and 26. In other words, a draft. Rangel's version had just 14 co-sponsors, and Holling's bill has no support at all. Both bills were quickly referred to committee to languish and die, as Congress had absolutely no interest in pursuing a draft.
The bills were just lying there, waiting to die in committee, when rumors began to fly that President Bush was "secretly" supporting the legislation. To help stop the on-going rumors about a draft, the House of Representatives pulled HR 163 out of committee (where it had been languishing untouched for over a year), and subjected it to a full floor vote on October 5, 2004. The bill was soundly defeated by a vote of 402 to 2 (that means it's forever dead, folks). Interestingly, even the congressman who introduced the legislation, Representative Charles B. Rangel (D-NY), voted against it.
With that vote, Congress made their feelings about a possible draft very clear.
An interesting point about HR 163, is that it certainly would have been "fair," as it required EVERYBODY (male and female), between the ages of 18 and 26 to serve for two years, regardless of physical ability or health (we'll find something for them to do). More about this idiocy later.
Not to be dissuaded, and even though he voted against his own bill in 2004, in May 2005, the good Congressman (Rangel) introduced the bill again, in the form of HR 4752. This version would have required a mandatory 15 months of military or public service for everyone (male and female), between the ages of 18 and 26. The bill was quickly referred to committee, where it died a quiet death at the end of the legislative year.
Ever stubborn, in February 2006, Representative Rangel once again introduced a modified version of the bill. This version would require mandatory public service (military service or civilian public service) for everyone (male and female) between the ages of 18 and 42! (He did this to protest the Army raising their maximum enlistment age for voluntary enlistment to age 42).
Don't worry folks, the bill was immediately referred to the House subcommittee on Military Personnel, where it has languished, without action, until it died at the end of the legislative year. The bill had *ZERO* co-sponsors (which means that nobody else in Congress wanted to have anything to do with it.
I have no doubt that Mr. Rengel will re-introduce the legislation next year, and the year after that, and the year after that, as well. I also have no doubt that it will meet the same fate (no co-sponsors, no chance of passing) as it met in previous years.
In December 2007, Veterans Affairs Secretary Jim Nicholson spoke to a group of reporters a day after Bush said he is considering sending more troops to Iraq (Nicholson was in New York to announce a partnership with Mayor Michael Bloomberg on helping homeless veterans find housing). When a reporter asked him if he thought a draft would be good for the country, Nicholson began reminiscing about his service during the Vietnam War and said: I think that our society would benefit from that, yes sir, because it does bring people from all quarters of our society together in the common purpose of serving in uniform."
A while later (presumably after getting chewed out by the White House), he issued the following statement: "Today, some comments I made about my experiences in Vietnam during that war may have been misconstrued," he said. "Let me be clear, I strongly support the all-volunteer military and do not support returning to a draft."