Jon E. Dougherty is a Missouri-based political science major, author, writer and columnist. Follow him on Twitter.
Reports that Washington is set to reinstate a military draft to augment forces currently assigned to wage the nation’s war on terrorism are false, say officials with the nation’s draft agency and the Pentagon.
In a statement issued earlier this week, the Selective Service System said, “No heightened measures have been undertaken to bring the nation closer to the re-establishment of conscription” following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S.
While “young men are reminded that they are required by existing federal law to register with Selective Service System within 30 days of their 18th birthday,” the statement said, no calls for additional troops to be drafted are on the table.
In the meantime, the agency “remains in a standby, caretaker status.”
“There is no consideration of … (reinstating the draft) … at this time, and from my conversations with the Pentagon, it’s not something they anticipate,” White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters Sept. 19.
“(The draft) … is not something that we’ve addressed, and it is not something that is immediately before us. At the moment, I do not foresee the need to do that,” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said a week later.
To reinstate conscription takes an act of Congress, Selective Service officials say, pointing out that the U.S. has not had to draft soldiers since the Pentagon went to an “all-volunteer force” concept in 1973.
In 1980, in response to the Soviet Union’s invasion of – ironically – Afghanistan, President Carter signed an order requiring young men reaching their 18th birthday to register for the draft with Selective Service.
Other than that, Pentagon officials say regardless of the mission required of the U.S. military – even during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the actions to drive Iraq from Kuwait in which a half-million U.S. personnel were mobilized – no draft has been needed.
But some analysts say a draft may be more likely now than in the past because Pentagon officials and the Bush administration have promised that the war against terrorism could last for years – a fact that may mean draftees will be needed to fill personnel gaps as the war widens in scope.
Also, analysts point to a report yesterday that the Pentagon may already be feeling the personnel pinch. According to Pentagon spokeswoman Victoria Clarke, officials told the White House two weeks ago that military chiefs may need to call up more than the original 50,000 reservists authorized by President Bush in September.
Clarke did not say how many more troops the Pentagon may need.
In explaining why more reservists might be needed, Pentagon officials said they are receiving more and more requests for security forces at federal locations and installations.
Gen. William Kernan, head of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, said yesterday he has considered “the full array of air defense systems” to protect some sites.
“Most recently, some of the things we looked at are some of the nuclear power plants, some of the other critical infrastructure that supports the national and state governments,” he said, but did not elaborate.
So far, seven states have called up National Guard troops to watch over nuclear power plants. They are: New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Arizona, Kansas and Arkansas.
Nevertheless, a spokesman for the House Armed Services Committee told WorldNetDaily that there had been no discussion of reinstating conscription.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said an additional 515 Army reservists and Army National Guard members were called to active duty Wednesday as part of the partial mobilization authorized by Bush. Also, 208 more members of the Naval Reserve were called up yesterday.
The total number of forces called to active duty for the Army National Guard and Army Reserve is 13,931; Naval Reserve, 5,448; Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve, 19,643; Marine Corps Reserve, 612; and the Coast Guard Reserve 2,450. The total Reserve and National Guard troops called to active duty is 41,392 from 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Almost all call-ups have been for troops to deploy in domestic defense and security roles.