Two things I should mention: First, Jim Nicholson himself was never drafted (he graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point), and second, The Secretary of Veterans Affairs has zero to do with making any policy for a draft. That decision could only be made by Congress and the President, and the advisors would be the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs.
The Bush Administration has stated over and over and over again that they have no plans to re-institute a draft; that they don't think a draft is necessary, and they don't believe a draft would even be effective with the type of military we have today. Ladies and gentlemen, they couldn't have made their views any clearer. The current administration is against a draft. They have said so, publicly, and loudly, at least 100 times.
Congress does not want a draft. They made that very clear in 2004 when virtually every Congress-critter (both Democrats and Republicans) voted against the bill, and in 2005, 2006, and 2007, when they allowed Rengel's bill to languish without action in committee.
Stop Loss. One of the programs that the military uses which draft-fanatics often cite as "proof" that a draft is right around the corner is a program called "Stop Loss." Some even refer to the program as a "back door draft." When "Stop Loss" is in effect, members of the military are not allowed to separate or retire, during the period of the "Stop Loss."
Folks, Stop Loss has been going on now for 18 years now. It was first widely used by President Bush (senior) during the first Gulf War, and was extensively implemented by President Clinton for both Bosnia and Kosovo. Bush (junior) implemented it for Afghanistan and Iraq. The "Stop Loss" in effect today is the minimum ever implemented. It affects a soldier only if he or she has been officially notified of an upcoming deployment. In other words, if a soldier is told he/she is scheduled to deploy, then he/she cannot separate or retire until after the deployment is complete.
Recruiting Woes. In 2005, the Army had a tough four-month period where they missed their monthly recruiting goals, and had missed their annual recruiting goal by about 8,000 troops. However, this wasn't because of fewer volunteers, it was because Congress authorized the active duty Army to increase in size by 20,000 troops from the year before, and the Army tried to do this all in one year.
In July 2005, I predicted that the Army would resolve their recruiting problems by adding more recruiters to the field, and by implementing new recruiting incentives authorized by Congress (including higher enlistment bonuses, raising the maximum enlistment age, accepting more prior service applicants, higher college loan repayment limits, and higher Army College Fund amounts).
Turns out I was right. As of the date of this revision, all of the active duty services (including the Army) have made or exceeded their monthly recruiting goals for 29 consecutive months (see FY 2006 Recruiting Statistics, and FY 2007 Recruiting Statistics).
It's true that the Army National Guard and Air National Guard are struggling a bit, but they've made up their short-fall by having higher than normal re-enlistment rates. In any event, this article is about the possibility of a military draft, and this country has never used a draft to fill their Reserve or National Guard forces -- only active duty.
In the late 90s, all of the military services (except the Marine Corps and Coast Guard), missed their recruiting goals for four straight years in a row. It didn't result in a military draft then, and missing the goal this year (or even next year, or the year after) certainly isn't going to.
Reenlistment rates (for all the services) continue to be the highest ever. The services are certainly not having any problems keeping people.
While the active duty Army (and Marine Corps) are trying to increase in size, the Air Force and Navy have too many folks. Both services are still trying to cut thousands of troops from their ranks. In fact, the Air Force recently announced they are planning to cut an additional 50,000 (enlisted, officer, civilian) from active duty, Air Force Reserves, and Air National Guard) between FY 2007 and FY 2010. The "reduction in force" for the Air Force and Navy has resulted in long waits (up to one year) for those wishing to join up, and the services are encouraging people to separate early, or transfer to the Army.
In 2005 the Marine Corps, for the first time in two decades missed their recruiting goal (for two months), but the primary reason was because (like the Army), they were trying to fill their size increase (9,000 new Marines), all in a single year (they almost made it).
Long, long, long before Congress would even consider implementing a draft, the Army would have to significantly fail to attract voluntary recruits using recruiting incentives they now have, and any future incentives that Congress may authorize them to use.