As the War in Iraq continues, many young people are worried: They won't bring the draft back, will they?
In the past year, the government has tried to alleviate any worries that the draft would return. Last November, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly rejected a bill to reinstate conscription for the War in Iraq. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said on the House floor in June that "there isn't a chance in the world that the draft will be brought back." President Bush himself denied any draft plans during last year's election, saying "we're not going to have a draft so long as I'm the president."
For some students, that just isn't enough.
"The Bush administration will swear up and down that a draft won't happen, but the reality is that our military is in trouble," said University of California-Santa Clara senior Celina Holmes. "There aren't enough boots on the ground or enough men and women enlisting."
"If the United States decides to attack Syria or Iran, it will need as much manpower as it can get," said Texas Lutheran senior Bobby Luyties. "We may be forced to reinstate the draft if that happens."
Holmes and Luyties echo the position shared by many blogs and online interest groups that chronicle congressional actions influencing reinstatement of the draft. The group StopTheDraft.com offers resources to draft-weary young adults and encourages them to confront their representatives. Mothers Against The Draft offers advice for parents of draft-age children regarding the conscientious objector status. Another group, NoDraftNoWay.org, organizes protests by military recruiting stations.
Draft registration remains mandatory for all men turning 18 years of age. If a man does not register with Selective Service, he may be denied several government-sponsored benefits such as financial aid, federal employment and federal job training.
The draft itself is widely unpopular among Americans of all ages. A recent AP/Ipsos poll found that seven in 10 Americans are against draft reinstatement. A majority of those polled would even discourage their children from enlisting voluntarily.
Because of low recruitment, the Army reduced the physical and mental requirements for enlistment, allowing for more recruits without high school diplomas. Also, the Army intends to boost its recruitment benefits from $20,000 to $40,000. But even after revising requirements and raising benefits, the Army cannot meet goals. In the 2005 fiscal year, it fell an estimated 6,600 short of its recruiting goal, according to the Department of Defense.
"The U.S. will face more armed conflict in the next ten years; the Army is shifting its focus and structure," said Holmes, who represents her university's ROTC branch. "Never has there been more of a demand for officers. I've spoken to many decorated men who deliver the bottom line about the troubles the Army and other branches are facing. The Army is accepting anyone who enlists irregardless of drug tests or IQ standards."
In an effort to reverse the low recruitment trend, some military recruiters are targeting high school students. The No Child Left Behind act gives recruiters the same access to students as college and career counselors. Many anti-recruitment protestors denounce military presence in schools, arguing that the recruiters act more like salesman than soldiers.