Friday, August 17, 2007

On The Draft: The US Army is Built for Volunteers.

Introducing the draft today would be hard and detrimental to the force. It would not simply be a matter of bringing in several hundred thousand draftees every year like the pre-VOLAR days. Today's soldiers are expected to know a lot more, and be able to do a lot more. The volunteer Army has that luxury because it is able to train soldiers for much longer periods of time, and have a greater mix of experienced soldiers in units.

Returning to a draft would significantly reduce the average years of service soldiers have in any given unit. Instead of having most soldiers with 4 or 5 years of service at the platoon level, who would be able to mentor, train, and supervise new enlistees, we would be back to having NCO's with barely 2 or 3 years taking soldiers fresh from basic to war.

Much of the equipment and training is designed for a force that has the depth of experience available now. Much of it would be nearly useless if given to a platoon with just a few experienced soldiers. Simply maintaining the equipment properly often takes years of experience, years that would on average not be available in a draft army.

Either the draft would have to be for longer than 2 years (possibly 3 years like the normal enlistment, but maybe longer if draftees do not reenlist at the same rate as volunteers...which seems likely), a restructuring of the army to go back to simpler systems, or possibly having a draft service that does support roles rather than warfighting.

Currently, for example, much of the draftee type work is being done by contractors. We could replace the 100,000 kitchen workers, sand bag fillers, and gate guards with drafted soldiers and probably get something useful out of them. I don't think this would really help the manning shortage, since those jobs are already contracted out, and is probably cheaper and with better results than a draft would provide. But it is where 2 year involuntary soldiers would be most useful today.

Alternatively, the military could get away from bonus based enlistment drives, and provide a serious raise to actual wages. A $10,000 across the board raise, for example, would not only be an enducement to enlist, but to reenlist. Keeping experienced soldiers will almost always be cheaper and better than trying to produce new ones, and soldiers do face real world issues of paying bills once they leave the military: having the wages high enough for soldiers to find outside offers less appealing would keep the experience in the service. Bonuses for reenlistment work, but soldiers are smart enough to understand that the bonus system is used to keep them in until they have served long enough that they have little option but to finish. Then the military screws you and there are no bonuses. Real salaries would work better.

2 million active military personnel would cost an additional 20 billion dollars annually with that kind of raise. While that is a lot of money, it is probably not so much more than the cost of instituting and sustaining a draft, particularly when other societal costs are factored in. Bonuses would still be needed in some specialties, but for the most part that would be enough to keep a lot of soldiers chugging away in uniform rather than leaving the security of what they know for greener pastures in the civilian world.


At 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The draft is fo' suckas.


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