Backdoor Draft? Reservists May Face Longer Tours of Duty
Reservists May Face Longer Tours of Duty (Bradley Graham, WaPo, A01)
Army leaders are considering seeking a change in Pentagon policy that would allow for longer and more frequent call-ups of some reservists to meet the demands of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, a senior Army official said yesterday. Reservists are being used heavily to fill key military support jobs, particularly in specialty areas, but Army authorities are having increasing difficulty limiting the active-duty time of some normally part-time soldiers to a set maximum of two years, the official said. He described the National Guard’s 15 main combat units as close to being “tapped out.”
To avoid pushing reserve forces to the breaking point, the official also said, a temporary increase of 30,000 troops in active-duty ranks that was authorized last year will probably need to be made permanent, especially if U.S. troop levels in Iraq remain high. He said significant troop levels may be required in Iraq for four or five more years.
The official declined to be named because of the political sensitivity of the troop issue and the lack of decisions. But he said that the Army probably will ask Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in the next several months to change the policy on mobilization of reservists. “It’s coming,” he told a small group of Pentagon reporters. “I think we’re going to have this discussion this spring.”
The news comes as the Bush administration confronts rising controversy over the shape and size of the U.S. military, particularly whether the active-duty and reserve forces are robust enough to meet the many demands placed upon them. Soldiers and their families are also expressing frustration at repeat deployments to Iraq and tours of duty that have already been extended.
About 40 percent of the 150,000 troops now in Iraq have come from reserve ranks. That number will grow to 50 percent in the fresh group of forces deploying at the moment — the third rotation of troops since the invasion in the spring of 2003. But with this rotation, the official said, the Army will have used all of the National Guard’s main combat brigades.
Kevin Drum and Jeralyn Merritt dub this a “backdoor draft.” Says Kevin, “If this happens, it’s for all intents and purposes a draft.” Jeralyn adds, “After the reserves, who do you think will be left?”
Within the present context, a “draft” may be defined as “(1) : a system for or act of selecting individuals from a group (as for compulsory military service) (2) : an act or process of selecting an individual (as for political candidacy) without the individual’s expressed consent.”
The proposed plan fails this test because
- 1. People who have joined the Reserve Component have done so voluntarily.
2. The raison dÃ¢€™Ãƒªtre of the Reserve Component is to provide a pool of people who may be drawn from in time of war.
3. We are currently at war.
Whether the policy is a wise one is debatable. But it certainly does not constitute a draft.
Update: I’m planning a longer piece for publication elsewhere addressing the “Whether the policy is a wise one is debatable” aspect.