By PNC COL Carl A. Singer
America needs a “Universal Service” where every young woman and man contributes to society via mandatory service. As witnessed within Israeli society, such service is a vital resource, a badge of honor, and the price of admission so to speak as a full-fledged membership of society. This calls for a draft!
Why? Our military is overused, understaffed, and not representative of our population. Today’s Military is deployed worldwide and we are relying too heavily on the Guard and Reserve which are being grossly overused with multiple deployments – all to avoid having a draft. Today there are approximately 1.3 Million brave women and men in the U.S. military. Only about 0.4% of the population is serving. That’s only 1 in 250! But for crisis events, our 16 year long war is not on America’s conscious. For the men and women who are serving and for their families – we are at war. For the rest of us it is pretty much business as usual.
The Vietnam era draft which, ended in 1973 was grossly unfair. Despite a draft lottery which gave an illusion of fairness, local draft boards were gerrymandered and subject to political influence. For example, Shaker Heights, Ohio, a wealthy Cleveland suburb. Its local board was carved out to include a portion of inner city Cleveland. The latter supplied sufficient draftees so the former was a source of easy deferments. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are many tales of questionable deferments – easy to come by in certain draft boards, impossible in others. A doctor’s letter asserting “severe allergies” was sufficient for a friend of mine.
Additionally, the demographics of today’s U.S. military do not reflect this great nation’s people. The poor and immigrants are disproportionately represented. They see the military as a way to serve, a pay check, a source of training, and an opportunity to later go to college or receive occupational training via the GI Bill. Thankfully, there are additional patriot young women and men who choose to serve – but most do not consider the military within their plans. They are takers, not givers.
It is no secret that our military is being stressed. Reinstituting a draft is considered political suicide. Thus in a misguided attempt to avoid having a draft, administration after administration has in essence “drafted” the Guard and Reserve instead. In short, the military makes do by grossly overusing its existing assets. This cannot go on forever. One can logically speculate that the disproportionate rate of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and the high rate of military suicides are symptoms of the current situation.
I cannot pretend to design a new draft in a paragraph or two – but here are a few points: (1) To assure fairness local draft boards should be eliminated. The draft pool should be on a state wide basis. This helps level the playing field so to speak; (2) National health and fitness standards will be established. All physicals will be done at the Department of Veterans Affairs – personal physicians will be out of the equation; and (3) there should be a four-year college deferment. School deferments beyond these initial four years (say for Medical School) shall be tied to a commitment for extended service upon graduation.
The measure of success for a new draft program will be the quality of those drafted. The measure of fairness will come in a decade or two. When looking back, no one will be complain about this new draft as having been unfair or biased.
The benefits would be enormous. I steadily heap praise on our World War II veterans – not only for their service in uniform, but also for what they did upon coming home. Some historians say that World War II ended the great depression. To me this is an understatement. Bolstered by the GI Bill, they went to school, learned trades, became professionals and thus ushered in a booming age of prosperity. They truly rebuilt this great nation! Today, universal service can similarly provide a generation of trained, motivated and disciplined young men and women to reinvigorate our nation.
I am not a sociologist, but I believe that in addition providing our military with young men and women from across American society a universal draft would benefit all of our maturing youth. The opportunity to serve, be it in the military or in another significant capacity will have a positive influence and provide lifelong benefits.
Volume 72. Number 1. Spring 2018