This Week's Herman Trend Alert

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  The Herman Trend Alert

July 14, 2004

Is the Draft Coming Back?

The alleged shortages of military personnel in Iraq and other trouble spots has stimulated increasing debate. The US Secretary of Defense instituted measures to extend the length of time troops are serving in the Middle East and has extended active duty periods for National Guard and Reserve members called for wartime service.

Members of the reserve component of America's armed forces have been increasingly activated as a vital part of the military. Reliance on this resource is now in jeopardy. People who did not expect long-term overseas active duty to be part of their public service role have seen their personal and business lives disrupted. While senior Pentagon officials insist that retention of these volunteers---reserve and active duty (career)---is not a problem, troops home on leave have shared with media representatives that large proportions of their units do not plan to reenlist.

Concern is spreading that our military organization will not be able to retain sufficient numbers of highly trained personnel to meet current and future needs. This problem is magnified by the growth of jobs in the civilian environment, stimulating private sector recruiters to target skilled members of the military to fill open jobs. This competition between civilian employers and the armed services will place the military at a serious disadvantage, particularly if the civilian employers offer intense and comprehensive training along with their other benefits.

If this trend emerges, as many expect, the United States government will have no choice. The Selective Service System will be called to re-initiate the draft for the first time since the Viet Nam War. To respond, the agency will have to grow dramatically in a relatively short period, particularly in consideration of the training time required for today's professional military.

Complicating America's readiness is the fact that the Selective Service System has no appointed director. Senate confirmation of the president's nominee for the directorship has been held up for months in reaction to a totally unrelated political issue. This delay, complicating national readiness and management effectiveness, is an embarrassing example of America's leaders ignoring implications of the coming labor shortage.


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