Hidden Agenda: A National Draft in
Howard Dean, September 21, 2004, Democracy for America
A key issue for young Americans and their families to
consider as they prepare to cast their votes in the upcoming presidential
election is the real likelihood of a military draft being reinstated if
President Bush is re-elected. President Bush should tell us now whether he
supports a military draft.
Here is the evidence that makes a draft likely:
- The U.S. Army has acknowledged that they are stretched thin and
that finding new recruits is challenging. They recently placed 300 new
recruiters in the field. Bonuses for new recruits to the Army have risen
by 67 percent to a maximum of $10,000 and $15,000 for hard-to-fill
- The extended tours of duty have made service less attractive for
both the regular armed forces, and particularly for the National Guard and
Reserves. To meet this year's quota for enlistees, the Army has sped up
the induction of "delayed entry" recruits, meaning they are
already borrowing from next year's quotas in order to meet this year's
- Reservists are now being called away for longer periods. In 2003,
President Bush dramatically extended the length of time for the Guard and
Reserves deployment in Iraq. Extended tours of up to a year have become
- In a further sign of a lack of adequate staffing, the armed forces
are now in the process of calling up members of the Individual Ready
Reserves. These are often older reservists usually waiting retirement.
They are typically in their mid-to-late forties, and have not been on
active duty and have not trained for some time. Traditionally, they are
only supposed to be called up during a time of national emergency. In
2001, President Bush authorized their call up but never rescinded this
order even after he declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq in
May of 2003.
- The Armed Forces are already chronically understaffed. In 2003,
General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress that an additional 50,000
troops would be needed beyond what the Bush administration said would be
necessary to stabilize Iraq after the invasion. The President ignored him.
We do not have enough troops in Afghanistan to be able to stabilize the
country, as shown by the continual putting off of elections well past
their announced date. In an effort to free up yet more troops in the
coming years, we are moving troops away from the Demilitarized Zone in
Korea and reducing the number of troops on the Korean Peninsula at a time
when North Korea poses more of a danger to the U.S. - not less. Because of
the President's military adventurism, our Armed Forces are under enormous
pressure. The only place to go for more troops is a draft.
- Selective service boards have already been notified that
20-year-olds and medical personnel will be called up first.
President Bush will be forced to decide whether we
can continue the current course in Iraq, which will clearly require the
reinstatement of the draft. The Pentagon has objected to a draft but, the
President has ignored other Pentagon recommendations in the past.
American families and young people are owed an
explanation about the President's plans. Will the President withdraw from some
of our military commitments or will he reinstate the draft? We need to know
that before we vote, not afterwards.
Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont, is the
founder of Democracy for America, a grassroots organization that supports
socially progressive and fiscally responsible political candidates. Email
Howard Dean at email@example.com