Army Short-Enlistment Option

Joe Katzman cites approvingly an article by distinguished military sociologist Charlie Moskos which suggests a short-enlistment option targeted at college students and recent college graduates” that would only require 15 months of active duty in order to alleviate the drain on the Reserve Component created by the current OpsTempo.

Moskos lists and rebuts several arguments against the option (stress on the training infrastructure, the technical nature of modern militaries, and the offering a 15-month commitment would discourage those who would otherwise sign up for longer terms). He omits, however, the most critical one: A 15-month enlistment is, in reality, an 8-year enlistment.

Since the end of conscription and the shift to the all-volunteer force in 1973, Americans have no legal obligation whatsoever to serve. However, those who volunteer are committed for eight years. Traditionally, they commit for a fixed period of time (usually 3 or 4 years) of active service and are then allowed to transfer to the Reserves, whether as an active attendee of drills or in the standby Individual Ready Reserve. That transfer, however, is at the sole discretion of the military.

As we have seen since the 9/11 attacks, and especially since the invasion of Iraq, the Army has the ability to institute Stop Loss, involuntarily extending the active duty terms of soldiers whose enlistment is over. Further, soldiers who do transfer to the IRR are subject to recall at any time at the order of the president.

UPDATE: The Moskos piece is from 2005. USA Today reported in May 2005 that the Army had instituted a 15-year option. I blogged about it here. I’m not sure what the status of that program is.


Related posts below the fold.


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Elsewhere: James Joyner, “Backdoor Draft?” TCS, 11 January 2005.

OTB: Military Personnel, General

OTB: Military Recruiting

OTB: IRR

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.