Support for Larger Military Growing

Support grows for beefing up U.S. forces (San Francisco Chronicle, p.1)

The war-strained all-volunteer U.S. military has a growing manpower problem and a cross-section of Washington policymakers has proposed a solution — increase the size of the regular military by 30,000, 40,000 or even 100,000 or more.
While just about all the proponents maintain they want to achieve the increase by offering recruits bigger financial incentives or through appeals to patriotism, lurking in the background is a possibility that for now remains anathema to all but a few. The military draft, which coughed up its last conscript in 1973, could make a comeback if recruiting doesn’t pick up and if America’s commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan turn into long-term occupations or if the Bush administration’s tough-minded foreign policy means military action in places like Iran or North Korea.

It’s important to note that the Bush administration adamantly scorns the idea of a resumed draft. It won’t even agree to a permanent increase in the Army’s size, which Congress temporarily boosted by 30,000 last year, saying instead that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s plan to transform the military into a high-tech, mobile force will meet the nation’s needs. But the administration does admit it has a problem, particularly in filling the ranks in the 500,000-person regular Army and the 675,000-person Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which have been called upon to carry a large part of the burden of deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan. In a March 23 press conference, Army Secretary Francis Harvey said that in the first two months of 2005, the active Army was meeting 94 percent of its recruiting goal, the Reserve 90 percent and the Guard 75 percent.

The piece also includes interviews with Larry Korb and Phil Carter, who debated the draft last week at CAP, as well as representatives of several Washington think tanks.

While there is some debate on the desirability of reinstating a draft, there is little doubt that it’s a political non-starter. Absent a Pearl Harbor-type attack from a major nation state, it’s just inconceivable that the American public would support a draft. If the demand created by Iraq and other deployments proves too much a strain over time, the solution will be to change our public policy objectives rather to meet the capability of the volunteer force rather than to force people who don’t want to join to fight.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brian J. says:

    I thought the author tried to confuse support for a larger military to support for a draft, but perhaps I was trying too hard.

  2. Just Me says:

    Well I am not in favor of a draft, and don’t see congress starting it up anytime soon.

    However, I do think we need to revamp our military. My husband was in the Navy during the gutting years, and I felt strongly then that they had to few carrier groups, and it ended up causing way too much stress on families, because the ships were at sea too much (I think I counted up my husbands last year in the Navy, and he was gone 9 months of that year, and that wasn’t a 6 month med run year).

    I don’t have personal experience with the other branches, but I do think Bush’s plan to move soldiers stationed in Germany and other places is a good idea. We have too many troops in some places, and it is a waste of money and their time to have them there, when they could be better utilized elsewhere.

  3. I’ve posted several times that the age limits for initial enlistment should be removed. So long as a person can meet the physical requirements, they should not be barred from service because of age. The army recently upped their age limit from 35 to 39, but removing it entirely would open up a pool of tens of millions of potential enlistees.

  4. McGehee says:

    The best way ti beef up our military is to bring them all home and have them guard our borders from illegal aleins and al queda terrorists

    Right. Fight the terrorists here in America where our own civilians can get hurt. Let us know how that platform works for you in the next election.