Military brass debate bringing back the draft or enlisting 16-year-olds as recruitment plummets

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With the endless wars the United States has been involved in over the last 18 years, America’s military is having more than a little difficulty finding able-bodied men and women willing to serve their country. This is in spite of the military offering increased incentives to enlist. To prop up the numbers in the all-volunteer force (AVF), some have proposed drastic measures including recruiting kids as young as 16 to enlist and bringing back the draft.

The military has already tried a few ways to increase enlistment numbers but is still falling far short of the needed bodies. For example, the Army’s goal was to recruit 80,000 people, but they later reduced that number to 76,500 people. However, recruitment still fell short, and the Army missed it’s revised goal by 7,600 people.

According to the report, some measures the military has used include:

“Repeat deployments that violated long-standing dwell time policies; stop-loss, a ‘back door draft’; unprecedented enlistment and reenlistment bonuses; lowered enlistment standards; and the use of prescription psychotropic drugs to deal with service members’ emotional and psychological stress.”

In addition to bringing back the draft and recruiting younger kids, other proposals have been made to increase enlistment. This includes increasing enlistment bonuses again, although it already sits at an unprecedented record high of $40,000, increasing social media use to raise awareness, increasing recruiter numbers, and increasing access to high schools, among other methods.

However, Army Maj. Gen. Dennis Laich and others believe that bringing back the draft is the only way to effectively increase enlistment numbers and keep them up. According to the report:

“A fair, efficient, sustainable, legal and proven alternative to fix the military recruiting problem is readily available: conscription using a lottery based system with no exemptions and no deferments.”

Laich justifies a draft based on math. He writes that of the 4 million or so Americans who become old enough to enlist each year, only about 30 percent are able to meet minimum testing standards. Of those, only about 15 percent actually want to enlist. That’s about 180,000 people. The proposal reasons that if we brought back the draft, the military could raise its standards for entrance – resulting in a “higher quality force” from a larger pool of people and get rid of enlistment bonuses and recruiters.

When former President Richard Nixon got rid of the draft in 1973, he did so because the very unpopular Vietnam War had just ended, and he wanted to fulfill his campaign promise. Bringing back the draft has been floated as an idea numerous times by numerous people, with some believing that serving in the military should be a requirement to be a citizen.

Others believe that if the draft comes back, women should be included as well. At present, every man must register with the Selective Service System when he turns 18, the pool of people the government would pull from if the draft were reinstated. In January of 2019, Congress debated whether registering for the Selective Service System should be mandatory for women as well.

While bringing back the draft might work to fill the military ranks faster, the bottom line is that it takes away the right of people to choose to serve – or not.

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