Small Wars Journal

defense reform

Why Bringing Back the Draft Makes No Sense

Fri, 07/20/2012 - 5:51am

When retired Army General Stanley McChrystal commented that he believes it’s time to “consider a draft” at the Aspen Ideas festival, he sparked a conversation in the media on the merits of the draft and why it would be good for our military and America. The argument to bring back the draft usually revolves around three key issues: 1) a conscripted military would be more representative of the United States population (and the inherent accusation that it currently does not), 2) the burden of war has unfairly fallen squarely on the shoulders of the all-volunteer military, (the much vaunted “other” 1%) and 3) policy makers would be less willing to wage war if their sons and daughters stood to potentially serve.

While the intentions behind bringing back the draft are mostly good in nature, they are largely based on misconceptions about military service, the state of the all-volunteer military, and who actually serves. Considering there are so few people who serve in the armed forces, it is no surprise that these misconceptions exists. The problem with bringing back the draft is that it would not accomplish the noble goals of those who support its return.

The most important point in arguing against bringing back the draft is that we don’t need it. That is, the armed forces are currently having no problems with recruiting, and in most cases, are recruiting over 100% of their target goals. To bring back the draft, the military would have to do one of two things in order to make room for the conscripts: increase the size of the overall force or partition off a certain quota of positions to be made up of conscripts. Considering the current economic situation and the planned reductions in troop numbers, increasing the size of the overall force is a nonstarter. Given the military’s current recruiting success, partitioning off “slots” for draftees could work only by turning away otherwise qualified recruits. Then, there would still only be a tiny portion of the armed forces that were draftees in a mostly all-volunteer force.

Going further, only about 30% of military aged youth (ages 17-24) are fit to serve. Obesity, physical and mental conditions, drugs, and criminal issues have disqualified the majority of the potential pool for a draft. If we were to bring back the draft, only the “fit” 30% would be eligible for service so long as we maintain the current ascension standards, resulting in a strange “discrimination of the fittest.” Based solely on service eligibility, a conscripted military of only the “fittest 30%” would hardly be representative of America.

The military preys on poor minorities. To tackle some of the assumptions introduced earlier, the ranks of the military are not predominantly filled by the country’s poor minorities. No matter how often this myth is debunked, it continues to persist.  Rather, with the exception of gender, the armed forces are fairly representative of the country. Instituting the draft might bring the demographic percentages closer to true proportionality with the general population if that pool of “fit” Americans eligible for serve is also directly proportional with the general population, which it is most likely not.

The Other 1%. It is true that the burden of fighting the war in Iraq and Afghanistan has been largely shouldered by the all-volunteer military, the “other 1%” of Americans who chose to serve in the military during a time of war.  (With a total end strength of about 1.5 million (active), the military makes up less than .5% of the American population.) Except those soldiers who were “stop-lossed” earlier in the wars, deploying multiple times is often a choice made by the professional soldier.  A draft would do nothing to limit the burden of war on the individual. The military does not deploy soldiers as individuals, but as a part of a unit. Units rotate in and out of theater, taking time to reset, train, and prepare to deploy again. During this period, individual soldiers rotate to different units who may be on different deployment schedules, resulting in a soldier who may not have had as much time at home as would be preferred. The only way a draft would lessen the burden on the individual is if the draft were designed to replace these soldiers, and force them to “sit out” a deployment or to get out of the military altogether, which I don’t think is the intent of proponents of the draft.

The Hunger Games. It makes sense to believe that if we had a draft, policy makers would be less likely to engage in risky military adventurism because their own sons and daughters might be called to serve. However, the raw numbers suggest that the probability of this happening is so infinitesimally small that it would be insignificant, except for symbolic value, perhaps.

Instituting the draft in one of the aforementioned ways (increasing the size of the military or partitioning off draft “slots”) would not spread the burden of service uniformly over the population because of the few who are eligible to serve. It would not lessen the burden of service for the individual or make the armed forces more representative of the general population, and it would likely have only a marginal effect on policy makers’ decision making because the chances of their sons or daughters being drafted in a shrinking military filled with volunteers is so miniscule.

The Civlian-Military Divide. Bringing back the draft is often raised as a way to lessen the civilian-military divide. That is, the socio-cultural dissonance felt by members of the military and the civilian population at large (Not to be confused with that “other” civil-military divide, which is about civilian control of the military and policy making). This divide has been identified by prominent members of the military as well as politicians as a growing problem facing the republic. Essentially, members of the military feel that the general public does not fully understand and appreciate the sacrifice of military service. There is also a feeling that the military is at war, but the rest of the nation is oblivious to that and not doing their share. In fairness, no one has identified what a harmonious civilian-military relationship would look like. My guess is that it is a fantasized version of what American life might have been like during World War II, where the citizenry was mobilized behind the war effort.

Addressing the civilian-military divide is important, but forcing a draft onto a military that does not need it will not close the divide. The numbers just don’t add up. Even if the entire volunteer military was abolished and “restarted” with all draftees, that force would still represent less than .5% of the population. And that .5% would come from the small portion of society that is fit for military service.

Essentially, the idea of a draft is more appealing than the reality. It is inspiring to think of a truly democratic fighting force that consists of exact proportions of the American population who are bonded together through training, shared sacrifice, and military service. If this were possible to achieve, than it might be worth examining. The reality is that bringing back a draft would do little to achieve any of the goals of those who argue for its return.






Don't Promote Mediocrity

Tue, 05/22/2012 - 9:54pm

Brigardier Mark Arnold, an Army reservist and CEO of a multinational manufacturing firm, argues for reforms to the military's personnel system in an essay at Armed Forces Journal.  There are some familiar refrains here.

Today’s best junior officers, those with high talent and a strong calling to service, should become the admirals and generals who testify before Congress and serve as Joint Chiefs in 20 years. Retaining them is vital; losing them hurts our long-term ability to creatively transform the military as security challenges change. The U.S. military must replace its industrial-age personnel processes and insular culture with contemporary personnel and talent management systems that reward innovation. ...


A short list of overdue changes to the military personnel system includes efforts to:

• Promote top performers only when they are selected for higher responsibilities.

• Eliminate year-group and “time in grade” promotions.

• Find and release the worst performers at all levels.

• Establish a job posting system.

• Give senior leaders responsibility for assessing, hiring and developing talent.

• Allow top talent to choose non-command assignments.

• Establish succession-planning processes.

• Create assignment flexibility between active and reserve components.

• Learn from exit interviews.

Read the rest here.

Strategic Implications for the Army in the Post-2012 Election Environment

Fri, 05/18/2012 - 6:09am

Editor's Note: Doug Macgregor presented this originally as a powerpoint brief to intermediate-level education students.  It is converted from its original format for ease of online reading, though the slide and bullet structure was maintained.

Slide 1

Strategic Implications for the Army in the Post-2012 Election Environment


•Don’t fight the problem!

•What are the broad strategic trend lines?

•What will America’s Post-Election Defense Establishment look like?

•What should the Army senior leadership do?

•Truthful, open debate is vital.

•Summary of Key Points


Slide 2

  • “Don't fight the problem, decide it.” George C. Marshall, General of the Army America’s military technological edge and advantages in training, discipline and flexibility have been eroded by the U.S. failure to sustain investment in strategic and operational forces. This condition is the direct consequence of our self-defeating obsession with hegemonic nation building, military occupations and resulting counter-insurgency campaigns in the Middle East and Afghanistan. This period is ending. Now, Army Force Design, Modernization and Thinking about warfare must adjust to radically new strategic conditions.
  • The Central Idea: “Cross-domain synergy. The complementary vice merely additive employment of capabilities in different domains such that each enhances the effectiveness and compensates for the vulnerabilities of the others…”  JOINT OPERATIONAL ACCESS CONCEPT (JOAC) VERSION 1.0 17 January 2012


Slide 3

Trend lines: Russia, NE Asia and India

  • Russia: Down from 14 million in the armed forces to less than a million. Russian forces are hard pressed to modernize, let alone secure Russia, which borders 14 nations. Russia’s focus is on restive Muslim at home and in Central Asia, not on the US and the West.
  • China: Stability‐obsessed leaders are focused on maintaining rapid economic growth to create enough jobs for China’s 1.3 billion people and keep a lid on unrest. China’s Military (PLA) is riddled with corruption and professional decay, compromised by ties of patronage, and asphyxiated by the ever‐greater effort required to impose political control.
  • Japan and the ROK: Japanese and Korean Defense Ministers will soon sign a general security of military information agreement and an acquisition and cross‐servicing agreement. The foundation for a military alliance that will turn the tables on China and change the strategic balance in NE Asia.
  • India: China’s acquisition of Coco Island from Myanmar and build up of Gawadar Naval base in Pakistan have induced India to build up its own naval forces. India’s naval base at the mouth of the Malacca Strait, is critical to India’s strategy for blocking Chinese shipping through the Strait of Malacca.


Slide 4

Trend lines: The Islamic World and Latin America

  • Muslim Societies in North Africa, ME and SWA are in meltdown. Islamism is rising because it is rooted in the societies and their supporting cultures. The growing Islamist majorities will struggle for decades to govern themselves.
  • Turkey and Iran are in direct opposition in Syria; attempts to remove Assad from power in Syria are reinforcing Iran’s perception that it needs a nuclear deterrent to hold the Sunni Peninsular Arabs, Israel, Turkey, and potentially U.S. Forces at risk. Securing Iran and its new Shiite Satellite State, Iraq, and competition for regional dominance will pit Turkey and Iran against each other for decades.
  • Criminality, terrorism and human trafficking from Latin America, especially, Mexico, presents an immediate and growing threat to the internal stability and national security of the United States. Mexico is in the midst of a drug war, with rival cartels fighting for control of a $30 billion market for illegal drugs inside the United States.
  • The future key terrain of the world will be oil, minerals, water and the infrastructure that supports these resources. Al Faw in the Persian Gulf pumps out roughly $17,000 a second in crude oil. 42% of Nigeria's oil already goes to the United States… The West with Japanese participation is dividing up the World’s resources on the Yalta model. The Chinese are not invited …


Slide 5

Trend lines: Debt Matters!

  • When interest rates on the U.S. Treasury’s securities rise – and they will – the U.S. Government’s cost of servicing the nation’s ballooning debt will soar confronting Americans with a new fiscal crisis;
  • In Senator Tom Coburn’s words, “the specter of default.”
  • International Financial Outlook is grim.  EUROZONE will implode followed by UK;
  • NE Asia: Chinese economic downturn already underway. Japan and Korea will follow.
  • Near Term: Probability of ‘Great power’ war low, but a Korean‐Style Emergency that demands ready, deployable Army combat forces capable of decisive, Joint offensive operations remains a strong possibility. Until borders are secure, Americans at home are at risk.
  • Long‐term: The prerequisite for any fight with U.S. Forces is to neutralize U.S. space-based assets. This fight involves kinetic and non‐kinetic (cyber) capabilities and will only intensify.


Slide 6

What do the trend leans mean for America's post election defense establishment?

  • Critical Task for incoming Defense Team in January 2013: Optimize today’s forces within the trend lines to guide strategic investment over time.
  • Industrial Age paradigm inefficiencies and duplications reduce operational impact and perpetuate unsustainable “cost exchange ratios” with our adversaries (Vietnam/Iraq/Afghanistan).
  • Optimizing “capability at cost” in new paradigm dramatically increases operational impact of each dollar spent – maintaining/enhancing security at reduced spending levels.


Slide 7

Implications for Army Ground Forces:

  • The U.S. will no longer sustain open‐ended military interventions in failing or failed states with the object of imposing cultural and political change with general purpose ground forces.
  • The Army can learn more about the future character of warfighting operations from the Falkland Islands Campaign than from its experience in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Lines of Communications will be the life or death of force projection over vast distances. In the Pacific, Australia is key. (See Key State Strategy outlined in Breaking the Phalanx, Praeger January 1997)
  • The Army must offer a modular continuum of response that is flexible and inherently joint in design and assert a leadership role in Joint operations and concepts.
  • Without a new force design in place, the Army will not get a new strike vehicle or C4ISR package is the start point for change. Standardization of sensors, networks, C2 data, and intelligence is vital.


Slide 8

What should the Army’s senior leaders do?

  • In December 1905, three years after the Boer War ended, Richard Haldane became Secretary of State for War. Obstructed by a nation obsessed with the Royal Navy, and a political culture opposed to conscription, Haldane began preparing the British Army for a future conflict very different from colonial warfare.
  • Haldane set out to determine the form future war was likely to take, then, adopted the organization and weapons to fight it. In other words, software (thinking carefully about things, contemplating likely issues and problems) must come before hardware. What happened?
  • Haldane concentrated on reorganization, modernization and training to maximize capability at cost;
  • In practice, Haldane built a ground force suited to a global Maritime Power, not a regional Continental Power;
  • The result was an elite force of 6 infantry divisions and 1 cavalry division, designed for rapid deployment as a British Expedition Force (BEF), backed by a reserve of 14 Territorial divisions of volunteers;
  • In 1914, the BEF arrived in time to slow, then, cooperate with the French to halt the German advance.


Slide 9

Implications of the Haldane Model for today’s Army:

  • The Haldane approach demands rigorous analysis to link strategy with concept and capabilities; an integrated, joint military command structure with a self‐contained organization for combat. An Army for a global Aerospace‐Maritime Power, not a continental power!
  • New Army Force Design must:
    • Create powerful synergies with the technologies and concepts developed by U.S. Aerospace and Maritime Forces.
    • Punch above its weight, mobilizing fighting power disproportionate to their size;
    • Operate in a non‐linear, nodal and dispersed, mobile warfare environment inside a much more lethal battle space.
    • Possess the capability to close with the enemy, take hits, sustain losses, keep fighting and strike back decisively (employ accurate devastating firepower from tracked armored platforms to ensure survival and victory in close combat).


Slide 10

The Light Reconnaissance Strike Group (LRSG) breaks the WW II/Cold War paradigm!

  • The post‐election Army must be resilient. It must be survivable, effective and act as a Joint enabler across a range of alternative futures.
  • A Light Reconnaissance Strike Group performs critical tasks in the context of Joint operations:
    • Provides a credible land component with the mobility, firepower, protection and organic sustainment to operate autonomously under Joint C2 in dispersed mobile warfare;
    • Signals escalation dominance to the enemy;
    • Bypasses or punches through enemy resistance for operational maneuver to encircle and destroy sub‐national groups or nation‐state forces;
    • Shifts rapidly between close combat and peace enforcement.


Slide 11

Post-Industrial/Information Age Joint, Integrated C2 Warfighting Paradigm

  • Integrated “All Arms” Warfare: Warfighting Operations that integrate functional capabilities – Maneuver, Strike, IISR, Sustainment – across service lines inside an integrated Joint C2 operational framework.
  • “High lethality, low density”: Army Forces that punch above their weight, capable of operational reach in an environment of mobile, dispersed warfare.


Slide 12

In the absence of truthful, open debate nothing changes

  • “The question of whether to invade the Soviet Union is a political decision. My focus is on the military issues important to such an undertaking… It may be the campaign is over in 4‐6 weeks. Perhaps, the whole thing will collapse like a house of cards in the first attack.” Lieutenant General Friedrich Paulus, Chief Planner for Operation Barbarossa, 1940
  • “I've never been more encouraged during my entire, almost four years in this country. I think we're making real progress. Everybody is very optimistic that I know of, who is intimately associated with our effort there.” General William Westmoreland, 16 November 1967
  • “During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell, 1929
  • No Accountability = No Integrity = No Change


Slide 13

Summary of Key Points:

  • The future of the Army is a constrained future‐‐especially in the budgetary sense. The Haldane model points the way forward.
  • Meanwhile, reorganize Army Forces to expand the nation’s range of strategic options; forces capable of conducting integrated, “all arms” operations in dispersed, mobile warfare against a mix of potential opponents, conventional and unconventional.
  • Like the Navy, Air Force and Marines, the U.S. Army exists to raise, train, and equip modular/mission focused capability packages and C2 elements designed for commitment to the COCOMs and plugged into Joint Force Headquarters which have the authority and the responsibility to fight and win the nation's wars.

Betting on Economic Crisis as the Sole Route to Reform

Wed, 05/09/2012 - 10:02pm

At the Fabius Maximus blog, Doug Macgregor offers a synopsis of the state of the U.S. military and the prediction that only economic crisis will provide the impetus for reform.


Today, Chuck Spinney, Mike Sparks, along with others seeking to reform America’s military culture, all confront this old American problem in newer and more challenging forms. ...

What is clear is the disposition after January 2013 to just cut defense spending, with little attention to how we do it. If we were Germans, Japanese or Israelis we might ask how we can extract more capability for the money through reform, reorganization and a changed acquisition paradigm, but I am not sure we will ask these questions, at least not initially.

Normally, two things can change this condition either in isolation or combination: economic crisis or serious military defeat. Given the world’s disinterest in waging for just now, I am betting on an economic crisis.