The Military Draft and a Possible War with Iraq
Report for Congress
The Military Draft and a Possible War with Iraq
December 31, 2002
Robert L. Goldich
Specialist in National Defense
Foreign Affairs, Defense, and Trade Division
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
The Military Draft and a Possible War with Iraq
Since the possibility of a second major war with Iraq became apparent in mid-
2002, interest and concern about a return to the draft have manifested themselves for
the first time since the 1991 Persian Gulf War. As was the case in 1991, a review
of military manpower levels and potential war scenarios suggests that only a
prolonged war, with major military reverses for U.S. forces, or new international
developments creating the need for substantially larger armed forces, would result in
a military requirement to reinstitute the draft. Virtually all proposed scenarios for a
war with Iraq assume that it would not last long enough, result in high enough
American casualties, or require enough additional forces to necessitate a draft. The
military rationale for resuming the draft to meet the needs of the armed forces for
manpower during an Iraqi war, therefore, does not seem to be compelling.
However, there are possible scenarios that might tax the ability of the armed
forces to recruit a sufficient number of volunteers. One such scenario could combine
an Iraqi conflict with other confrontations (e.g., North Korea). Other scenarios
could involve the need for very large peacetime deployments of U.S. forces (e.g., the
possible occupation of a defeated Iraq) or major demands for domestic deployments
based on threatened or actual terrorist activity.
Some of the sociological arguments in favor of conscription involve different
interpretations of the same data; others are more philosophical and not related to
quantitative analysis or interpretation. While African Americans are present in the
enlisted ranks to a considerably greater extent than their proportion of the American
population, the Hispanic proportion is less, rather than more, than their presence in
the American population . If upper-middle class youth appear to be underrepresented
in the enlisted ranks, they are present in the officer corps. Throughout American
history there has been a debate about whether compulsory military service is (1) a
civic responsibility and display of patriotism, not subject to individual whim as to
whether it is performed or not; or (2) a violation of individual liberties that, if
implemented at all, should only be used in times of grave emergency.
Legal authority for the involuntary induction of men into the Armed Forces
expired on July 1, 1973. New legislation would be required to reinstate an active
draft. Currently the Selective Service System operates on standby status. Young men
are required to register with the system within 30 days before or after their 18th
birthday. If the draft were to be reactivated, young men age 18 through 26 would be
subject to induction (up to age 35 if deferred when initially called). Student
deferments were drastically restricted by law after they caused so much controversy
during the Vietnam War of 1964-1973. Graduate student deferments were in fact
abolished early in the Vietnam War, in 1966. Under current law, undergraduates who
were drafted would be allowed to finish an ongoing academic semester (or their
senior year, if about to graduate), and would then have to report for induction.
Married men would not be exempt from any actual draft. This report will be updated
as events warrant.
In troduction ......................................................1
Possible Military Rationales for Resuming a Draft........................2
Sources of Casualty Replacements................................2
Ongoing Recruiting of Volunteers.............................2
Manpower in Non-Deployed Army and Marine Combat Units.......3
Army and Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve Personnel.......5
Recall of Retired Military Personnel to Active Duty...............6
Casualty Replacements: Will There Be Enough?.....................6
Active Army and Marine Corps Ground Combat Units Still in the
Army National Guard and Marine Corps Reserve Ground
Combat Units in the United States.........................8
Army and Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) Personnel..9
Combat-Specialty Personnel Serving in Noncombat Jobs...........9
Increasing the Size of the Active Armed Forces under
A War with Iraq and Possible Modest Increases in Force Size.......9
A Longer or Wider War and a Large Increase in Force Size........11
Social Rationales For and Against Resuming a Draft.....................12
Social Representation Arguments in Favor of a Draft ................12
Social Representation Arguments in Opposition to a Draft.............13
Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities...........................14
Current Status of the Draft and Action Required for Its Reinstatement.......15
The Military Draft and a
Possible War with Iraq
Since the possibility of U.S.-led military action against Iraq began increasing in
late 2001, there has been interest and concern about whether such a conflict would1
require the United States to resume conscription. This concern has been heightened
since roughly mid-2002, as President Bush has repeatedly stated that if Iraq did not
comply with various United Nations (U.N.) resolutions and inspection activities
dealing with its weapons of mass destruction and other activities deemed to be a
threat to international peace and security and U.S. national interests, military action
would be required to assure that compliance.2
There have been no indications that the Bush Administration has any intention
of deviating from the national policy of volunteer recruiting which has been in effect
since the end of 1972. Furthermore, although there have been occasional calls by
analysts, commentators, and Members of Congress for a resumption of conscription,
largely on grounds of perceived “social equity,”3 there does not appear to be broad-
based public support for the enactment of legislation that would reinstitute draft
authority. Public opinion polls indicate that, in relation to the war against terrorism,
Americans would be very supportive of conscription, but that a draft for other
purposes, or other wars, would face more opposition. For instance, an Investor’s
Business Daily/Christian Science Monitor poll taken in mid-October 2002 asked “If
the United States finds itself at war and needing many more active-duty personnel for
the armed forces, would you prefer...the reestablishment of the draft or only voluntary
recruitment for the military?” Only 26% of respondents preferred a draft, while 69%
preferred to stick with volunteer recruiting. On the other hand, a May 2002 Fox
News survey asked “If more soldiers are needed in the war against terrorism, would
you approve or disapprove of re-instituting the draft?” The response here had 57%
supporting a draft and 34% opposed. A virtually identical question posed in
November 2001 saw 74% supporting a draft and only 18% keeping voluntary
1See, for example, Rangel, Charles B. “Bring Back the Draft.” New York Times, December
2See CRS Issue Brief IB92117, Iraq: Weapons Threat, Compliance, Sanctions, and U.S.
Policy by Kenneth Katzman, updated regularly; and CRS Report RL31533, The Persian
Gulf: Issues for U.S. Policy, 2002.
3See, for example, the column by Representative Rangel cited in footnote 1; Smith, Jeffrey
H. “Paying the Cost in Blood and Treasure.” Washington Post, September 24, 2002: 21; and
Wickham, DeWayne. “This Time, Fighting Should Not Be Left to Just a Few.” USA Today,
September 16, 2001: 11.
enlistment only. Several other polls taken as soon as three days after 9/11 had very
This CRS report analyzes the possible scenarios under which the resumption of
a draft might be militarily necessary, describes some of the social rationales for and
against resuming the draft that have been cited (independent of military
requirements), and itemizes the current status of the draft and action required for its
Possible Military Rationales for Resuming a Draft
Most scenarios for a war with Iraq assume that it would not last long enough,
result in high enough American casualties, or require appreciable additional forces
so as to require a draft. Despite these assessments, there has been some concern in
some quarters about the possible military need to resume conscription.
From a military manpower perspective, a draft could be required for one or both
of the following reasons: (1) an inability to secure sufficient voluntary enlistments
to replace casualties sustained in future military operations; and/or (2) a need to
increase the size of the armed forces beyond that which could be achieved through
voluntary recruiting. Most experts currently believe that it is unlikely that either of
these eventualities will come to pass as the direct result of any war with Iraq.
Sources of Casualty Replacements
Almost all casualties in a non-nuclear war involving all military services are
likely to occur in the ground combat components of the Army and Marine Corps.
Casualties can be replaced from several sources before a possible return to a draft.
These sources include the ongoing output of Army and Marine volunteer male
enlistees from recruit training centers (the ground combat arms of the Army and
Marine Corps remain all-male organizations), personnel from Army and Marine units
still in the United States (both active force units and reserve units called to active
duty), and members of the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) of the Army and Marine
Corps. These sources would appear ample to meet the needs of any future war with
Iraq for replacements.
Ongoing Recruiting of Volunteers. Regular recruiting activities of the
services would, of course, continue to operate during the period immediately
preceding and during a war. The prospect of war or its actual existence would
dissuade some potential recruits from enlisting, and bring others forth in greater
numbers. Recent experience illustrates these conflicted views. During the period
September-November 1990, which were the first three complete months of Operation
Desert Shield–the military buildup in the Persian Gulf which preceded the actual
hostilities of early 1991–recruiting suffered considerably. Enlistments dropped
between 20% and 33% below previously-established goals. However, during the
4Information taken from Public Opinion (Dialog File 468; Roper Center for Public Opinion
Research, December 13, 2002, by CRS Government and Finance Division.
period October-December 1990, during which war became progressively more likely,
the actual number and quality of recruits (including those who had enlisted earlier
under the military’s “Delayed Entry Program,” but actually reported for service later),
was actually higher than anticipated.5 The nation’s most recent experiences with the
effects of war on recruiting therefore, is mixed at best, and arguably more positive
Manpower in Non-Deployed Army and Marine Combat Units.
Casualty replacements can be transferred from combat units not deployed to the
theater of operations; the utility of this depends on how many combat units would
remain in the United States during a war. Such “stripping” of nondeployed units,
naturally, severely degrades their combat readiness until their ranks are filled with
new personnel and the unit trained once more to operate as a unit. It has generally
been done only in extreme situations.
The Army’s combat force structure is much smaller than it was during the
Persian Gulf War, although that of the Marine Corps has remained fairly stable. The
Army deployed seven divisions plus smaller units equal to two-thirds of a division,6
and the Marine Corps two divisions, to the 1990–1991 war. Six Army divisions, and
one Marine division, remained in the Continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, and
Okinawa. Two divisions were kept in Europe to cope with a possible Soviet threat
which, in 1990-1991, was rapidly declining but still extant; and one remained in7
Korea, which was judged to face a more likely threat than Europe.
It is not known, of course, how many divisions would be deployed to fight Iraq
in any future operation, or how long such a conflict could take. Many more specific
estimates were offered in advance of the 1991 Gulf War. However, some estimates
are possible. Virtually all agree that a smaller force than that of 1990-1991 would
5Willis, Grant. “Army Tops Recruit Goal by 5 Percent.” Army Times, January 21, 1991: 4.
6In the U.S. Army, a division, commanded by a major general, has between 10,000 and
commanded by a colonel (or, in the case of a brigade not part of a division, frequently a
brigadier general), has between 3,000 and 5,000 soldiers, and is composed of two to five
(but usually three) battalions plus additional units. An armored cavalry reconnaissance unit
of brigade size is called a regiment. A battalion, commanded by a lieutenant colonel, has
300 to 1,000 soldiers, and is composed of four to six companies (but in most combat units
four) plus smaller units.(In the armored cavalry, a battalion-sized unit is called a squadron.)
A company, commanded by a captain, has anywhere from 62 to 190 soldiers and is
composed of three or four platoons. (A company-size unit in the artillery is called a battery,
and in armored cavalry units a troop.) A platoon, commanded by a first or second
lieutenant, will have between 16 and 44 soldiers, and will consist of three or four squads,
or four to five tanks or other armored vehicles. A squad or vehicle crew will be led by a
noncommissioned officer (sergeant) and have anywhere from four soldiers (the crew of one
tank, for example), to 9-11 soldiers in it. With minor exceptions, the terminology of U.S.
Marine Corps ground combat units, and modern foreign armies as well, is similar. This
description is adapted from material in Headquarters, Department of the Army.
Organization of the United States Army. Department of the Army Pamphlet 10-1.
Washington, June 14, 1994: J-1/J-8.
7“Command and Staff,” Army, October 1991: 189, 194-95, 198-99.
be needed. One reason cited is the unrepaired damage done to the Iraqi military by
the earlier war. The second reason commonly cited is the increase in the combat
capability of U.S. forces due to new, technologically advanced weapon systems;
improved command and control methods and doctrine; and over a decade of U.S.
deployments, exercises, and improvements in base structure in the Persian Gulf area.
A widely-quoted figure is the possible deployment of 250,000 U.S. troops in the
theater of war. If this latter number refers only to Army and Marine Corps forces
actually on the ground in or close to Iraq, then it might indicate six Army and Marine
divisions.8 If, on the other hand, the 250,000 figure applies to personnel of all
services, including naval personnel afloat, then it implies about four Army and
Marine divisions.9 The U.S. active duty ground force structure currently consists of
ten active Army divisions (two in Europe, one in Korea, and seven in the United
States)10 and three active Marine divisions.11
Commitment of the largest force which has been openly discussed–five Army
and two Marine divisions–would thus leave two divisions remaining in the United
States and three in overseas deployments. It is possible that part or all of the two
divisions in Europe, given that they are no longer deployed there to meet a Soviet
military threat, could be deployed to the Persian Gulf as well. On the other hand,
existing U.S. commitments in Bosnia and Kosovo, and the desire to keep post-
Warsaw Pact Europe as stable as it has become, might prevent such a deployment.
Thus, in a worse-case scenario, two active Army divisions would remain in the
United States during a war with Iraq from which individual replacements could be
drawn. Such a drawdown would, however, drastically decrease readiness to meet any
other contingencies that might threaten U.S. interests around the world, such as a
more threatening North Korea..
8A peak total of 306,000 Army and 94,000 Marine Corps personnel were deployed to
Operation Desert Storm. See CRS Report 94-529 F. U.S. Military Operations, 1965-1994
(Not Including Vietnam): Data on Casualties, Decorations, and Personnel Involved
Goldich, Robert L., and John C. Schaefer. June 27, 1994: 37. These included the
equivalent of eight Army and two Marine divisions as well as nondivisional support forces.
Simple arithmetic, dividing the 400,000 total by 10 divisions, leads to 40,000 troops per
division. Applying the 40,000 figure for what the Army has always called the “division
slice”–the total number of troops required to deploy and maintain a combat division in a
theater of war–implies about six divisions for a postulated “Gulf War II” force of 250,000
9Maximum strength of all service–Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast
Guard–in the Gulf War area of operations was 541,000. Goldich and Schaefer, U.S. Military
Operations: ibid. Dividing this figure by the ten division-equivalents leads to a figure of
54,000 troops of all services for each ground combat division. Application of this figure to
the 250,000 servicemembers possibly needed for a future implies about four divisions.
Because Navy and Air Force requirements, however, may have little to do with Army and
Marine Corps needs, this latter figure is much more questionable than that involving just the
two services with ground forces.
10“Command and Staff,” Army, October 2002: 233-35, 239-41.
11One of these divisions, however (the 3rd, headquartered on Okinawa), contains only six
rather than a Marine division’s usual nine Marine infantry battalions. See Polmar, Norman.
The Naval Institute Guide to the Ships and Aircraft of the U.S. Fleet. Seventeenth Edition.
Annapolis, MD, Naval Institute Press, 2001: 45.
The Army could also call National Guard combat divisions or brigades to active
duty and use their personnel as individual replacements. There are currently eight
Guard divisions and 17 deployable Guard brigades (a division consists of three
brigades plus some supporting units).12 Such an action would meet bitter opposition
from the National Guard community, which remembers when virtually all Guard
divisions were stripped to provide some individual replacements at the beginning of
both World Wars and the Korean War. These actions severely eroded the state
affiliation and character of the Guard divisions. However, it could be argued that if,
in fact, there is “One Army,” where National Guard and Army Reserve soldiers are
considered as capable and usable as active Army soldiers, that Guard and reserve
soldiers should be as subject to individual reassignment as any others.13 One way in
which some of the problems created by stripping units remaining in the Continental
United States (CONUS)–whether active Army or Guard–might be mitigated, is to use
CONUS units–squads, platoons, companies, or battalions–as replacements for similar
units overseas which had sustained heavy casualties.14
Army and Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve Personnel. The
Army and Marine Corps could also order members of their Individual Ready Reserve
(IRR) to active duty to provide casualty replacements. IRR personnel constitute a
pool of pretrained individuals with prior active military service for use upon
mobilization if necessary to bring units to war strength and replace casualties. In
most cases, IRR personnel are young people who have finished a tour of active duty
in the armed forces and have elected not to join an organized reserve component
unit–i.e., one which is paid and trains regularly–but who must legally be maintained
13Related to these issues is the extent to which major reserve ground combat units–at this
time, Army Guard infantry and armored brigades and divisions–can be readied for combat
before mobilization, and how much post-mobilization training is required for them to be
combat ready. The active Army and Guard communities have had periods of extraordinarily
bitter disagreement over these matters for well over a century, since the beginning of the
modern organizations of the active Army and the National Guard. The most recent period
of such acrimony began in late 1990, in the period leading up to the Persian Gulf War of
early 1991; continued throughout the 1990s, and did not really begin to abate until around
1998. See CRS Report 97-719 F, The Army Reserve Components: Strength and Force
Structure Issues (out of print; available only from the author, Robert L. Goldich); CRS
Report 91-763 F, The Army’s Roundout Concept After the Persian Gulf War (out of print;
available only from the author, Robert L. Goldich); Towell, Pat. “Budget Crunch Has a
Service at War With Itself.” Congressional Quarterly, January 3, 1998: 5-11 (also at
[http://www.cq.com]); and Peters, Katherine McIntire. “On Guard.” Government Executive,
January 1998 see [http://www.govexec.com/features].
14The Army is apparently attempting to institutionalize some aspects of unit replacement,
although virtually all such unit replacement efforts over the past 50 years have failed. See
Naylor, Sean D. “Manning Overhaul.” Army Times, December 30, 2002: 12-13; Naylor,
“Secretary pushes for large-scale personnel reform.” Army Times, September 16, 2002: 14;
Burgess, Lisa. “White Says Army Will Waste Billions if Individuals, Not Units, are
Rotated.” European Stars and Stripes, November 1, 2002; Cox, Matthew. “Battle buddies.”
Army Times, November 13, 2000: 8; and unpublished material from the Army Center of
Military History in possession of the author.
in a reserve status until their combined active and reserve service totals eight years.15
They do not currently train regularly, although they can legally be required to do so.
During the Persian Gulf War, the Army called over 17,000 IRR personnel to active
duty, of which over 10,000 were infantry, armor, field artillery, or combat engineer
“Stop-Loss”. Although not directly related to a possible draft, it should also
be noted that all services instituted so-called “stop-loss” programs shortly after
September 11, 2001 and the beginning of military operations in and around
Afghanistan a month later. According to 10 USC 12305, during most periods when
reservists have been called to active duty, the President “may suspend any provision
of law relating to promotion, retirement, or separation applicable to any member of
the armed forces who the President determines is essential to the national security of
the United States.” For practical purposes, stop-loss enables the services to keep any
servicemember, active duty or reserve, on active duty and/or in an active reserve
status, when that member would otherwise be separating from active duty or active
reserve status through retirement or end of the member’s enlistment or obligated
periods of service. Stop-loss thus increases the amount of military manpower “in the
bank” to replace casualties.
Recall of Retired Military Personnel to Active Duty. According to 10
USC 688, almost all retired regular or reserve military personnel may be involuntarily
ordered to active duty for more than 12 months during the 24 months that follow the
date on which the retiree first goes on active duty. During the Persian Gulf War,
Casualty Replacements: Will There Be Enough?
DOD and the military services never make public casualty estimates before a
military operation (although they are essential in planning military operations, to
determine what medical resources will be required and how many replacements for
casualties will be needed). The numerous casualty predictions made before
Operation Desert Storm were, with only one exception, far above the minuscule 628
U.S. casualties (147 killed, 458 wounded, 23 prisoners of war (POW) returned at the
1510 USC 651 states that “each person who becomes a member of an armed force...shall
serve in the armed forces for a period of not less than six years nor more than eight
years...Any part of such service that is not active duty or that is active duty for training shall
be performed in a reserve component.” DOD enforces this eight-year maximum allowed by
16Currie, Col. James T., U.S. Army Reserve, and Col. Richard B. Crossland, U.S. Army
Reserve. Twice the Citizen: A History of the United States Army Reserve, 1908-1995,
Department of the Army Pamphlet 140-14. Washington, Office of the Chief, Army Reserve,
17Brinkerhoff, John R. United States Army Reserve in Operation Desert Storm: Individual
Manpower Mobilization: The Army Reserve Personnel Center. Washington, Office of the
Chief, Army Reserve, 1992: 30-33.
end of hostilities) sustained.18 The key factors pertaining to the Iraqi armed forces
which led to the one-sided victory of the U.S.-led coalition in 1991, and to the
casualty rate that was so much lower than what virtually all observers and
participants expected, still appear operative, according to a recent in-depth analysis
of Arab countries’ military effectiveness over the past half-century. Most of these
reported Iraqi deficiencies include poor performance by junior officers leading small
units; inattention to maintenance and repair of weapons and equipment; lack of
honesty and accuracy in conveying information between different echelons of
command; poor battlefield intelligence; and difficulties in employing technically
On the other hand, it has been postulated that Iraqis fighting in their homeland,
as opposed to a recently-conquered country, might be much more effective. This
could be particularly true in the case of elite military organizations, such as the
“Republican Guard,” divisions of which offered the most resistance to U.S. and
coalition forces in the 1991 war. These have enjoyed much higher standards of living
and governmental favoritism than the majority of Iraqis, a status they would not want
to lose. Their role in domestic repression could also leave them more inclined to
fight to the death, if they knew they would be facing a combination of post-war
international and Iraqi justice, as well as the private settling of scores by their
The most pessimistic estimates of U.S. casualties made before the 1991 war
were those of the Center for Defense Information (CDI), which projected a possible
10,000 dead and 35,000 wounded.20 By the time the Coalition ground offensive
began (the ground combat operations of the Gulf War, as in all other wars, being
those in which the most casualties were sustained21) informal discussions among
analysts in and out of uniform in the Washington area were speculating that while the
CDI figures had become far too pessimistic, U.S. losses would include at least
several hundred killed and a few thousand wounded. This was predicated on
assumptions that while many Iraqi forces would surrender or simply flee the
18For U.S. casualties, see Goldich and Schaefer, U.S. Military Operations: 36. The 23
POWs returned in early March 1991 at the end of hostilities does not reflect the case of
Navy Captain Michael Scott Speicher, whose initial classification as killed in action has
been changed to missing in action, and whose status and possible survival have been the
subject of intense controversy. See CRS Issue Brief IB92101, POWs and MIAs: Status and
Accounting Issues, by Robert L. Goldich, updated periodically.
19This is adapted and summarized from Pollack, Kenneth M. Arabs at War: Military
Effectiveness, 1948-1991. Lincoln, NE, University of Nebraska Press, 2002: 264-66, 552-
20“U.S. Invasion of Iraq: Appraising the Option.” The Defense Monitor [published by the
Center for Defense Information, Washington, DC], Vol. XIX, #8, 1990; originally cited in
Goldich, The Persian Gulf War and the Draft: 4.
21The Army and Marine Corps sustained 91% of total Gulf War casualties. Goldich and
Schaefer, U.S. Military Operations: 36. While the Marine Corps figures include casualties
among Marine aviators flying fixed-wing aircraft, and both Army and Marine figures
include helicopter crew casualties, almost all losses of both ground-oriented services were,
in fact, sustained among ground troops.
battlefield without offering much effective resistance, some would stand and
fight–and do so effectively. As it transpired, while a fair number of Iraqi units did
stand and fight in 1991, in accordance with what were actually well-thought-out and
tactically-sound orders, their resistance was almost totally ineffective.
Assuming a scenario for a war with Iraq in 2003, in which U.S. forces sustained
casualties of several hundred dead and several thousand wounded–it would appear
that existing personnel resources from the sources noted above would be ample to
replace casualties in a war with Iraq without resort to a draft. As noted above, these
sources would include the following.
Regular Recruiting. Recruits would continue to enlist as the war was being
fought. For instance, during FY1991-2001, an average of over 6,000 recruits per
month entered the Army and about 2,700 a month entered the Marine Corps,22
although most of these would not have enlisted for combat arms duty, based on the
normal distribution of occupational skills required by the peacetime services.
Active Army and Marine Corps Ground Combat Units Still in the
United States. Assuming that five U.S. divisions–four Army and one
Marine–were committed to an Iraq war (a mid-range estimate), this would leave three
Army divisions still in the United States. If necessary, the almost 9,000 soldiers in
their infantry and tank units of company size–where almost all casualties are
sustained–could be sent to replace casualties.23 The 3rd Marine Division, with two-
thirds the infantry strength of a full Marine division, would probably have about
Army National Guard and Marine Corps Reserve Ground Combat
Units in the United States. In extremis, the infantrymen and tankers of the
Army and Marine Corps reserve components could be activated, removed from their
reserve units, and used as replacements for active force units–or other reserve
units–fighting in the theater of war. The eight Army National Guard armored,
mechanized infantry, and infantry divisions; and the 15 “enhanced readiness” Army
Guard infantry, light infantry, mechanized infantry, and armored combat brigades
together have almost 37,000 men in their infantry and tank companies at full
strength.24 The Marine reservists in the rifle companies of the 4th Marine Division,
and the tankers in the two Marine reserve tank battalions, totalling about 5,000-6,000
Marines, would be similarly available.
22Calculated from DOD data in CRS Report RL31297, Recruiting and Retention in the
Active Component Military: Are There Problems?, by Lawrence Kapp, February 25, 2002:
23Calculations based on numbers of infantry and tank battalions, and hence their organic
companies, in these divisions. Data obtained from numerous DOD websites; The Infantry
Rifle Company. Field Manual 7-10. Washington, Headquarters, Department of the Army,
14 December 1990 and changes; and Tank and Mechanized Infantry Company Team. Field
Manual 71-1. Washington, Headquarters, Department of the Army; and “Command and
Staff.” Army, October 2002: 233-43.
24Ib i d .
Army and Marine Corps Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) Personnel.
Finally, as of September 30, 2001, 152,000 soldiers were in the Army IRR and25
60,000 Marines in that of the Marine Corps. Although most of these personnel
have not served in combat occupational specialties, tens of thousands of them have,
and could be used as combat replacements with comparatively little refresher
training. The experience with mobilized IRR members during the Persian Gulf War26
was quite favorable.
Combat-Specialty Personnel Serving in Noncombat Jobs. None of
these estimates take into account soldiers and Marines, both officers and enlisted
members, who were trained as infantrymen or tankers, have served in combat units
and sometimes in actual combat, but who at the actual time war breaks out would be
serving in the support organizations of their services.
Finally, it should be noted that all of the categories of personnel listed above
would all be immediately, or almost immediately, available for combat duty in the
Persian Gulf. Draftees, by law (10 USC 671), must receive at least 12 weeks of
training before being sent overseas to serve on land.
All of this would suggest, therefore, that only catastrophic military reverses, on
a scale involving the destruction of a substantial proportion of the U.S. forces
deployed against Iraq, and/or a prolonged conflict measured in terms of years, rather
than several months, would generate a military requirement to reinstitute the draft to
obtain casualty replacements. Both these scenarios seem unlikely.27
Increasing the Size of the Active Armed Forces
under Different Scenarios
A War with Iraq and Possible Modest Increases in Force Size. A
requirement to quickly increase the size of the active armed forces, like the need to
provide casualty replacements, could be initially met much more quickly with other
methods than reinstituting a draft. Even if up to 265,000 reservists are activated for
25Official Guard and Reserve Manpower Strengths and Statistics. FY2001 Summary. Office
of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Reserve Affairs).
26Brinkerhoff, United States Army Reserve in Operation Desert Storm: Individual
Manpower Mobilization: 30-33.
27Some have suggested that Iraqi employment of nuclear, biological, and/or chemical
weapons could result in massive U.S. and coalition casualties. However, there appears to
be a consensus that despite Iraq’s intensive activities to acquire nuclear weapons one way
or another, they have not done so. Regarding chemical or biological weapons, informed
analysts suggest that the practical difficulties involved in “weaponizing” such agents for
practical battlefield use; their susceptibility to rapid atmospheric dispersal; and the wide
range of U.S. protective equipment and tactics, would all combine to prevent their use by
Iraq from resulting in massive American casualties, although they certainly would be able
to inflict some harm to U.S. troops in the theater of war. For a summary of these issues, see
Harris, Elisa D. “Baghdad’s Weapons of Mass Destruction: What does Saddam have? Will
it be used? To what effect?” Homeland Security Monitor, Intellibridge Corp., October 23,
a war with Iraq (the total number called up for the 1991 war),28 the overwhelming
majority of the combat forces of the Army Reserve Components, and perhaps some
of the Marine Corps Reserve, would probably not be initially ordered to active duty.
A requirement for major increases in active duty strength could be met much more
quickly by activating more reserves than by instituting a draft. A draft would not
provide the trained officers and noncommissioned officers to man units effectively;
it would only turn out freshly-trained junior enlisted recruits. Furthermore, even the
latter would not become available until they had finished their recruit and initial
occupational skill training, a process which could take roughly three to five months
for junior enlisted ground combat soldiers and Marines.29 It seems unlikely that
actual hostilities in a war with Iraq would last that long, given the 42-day long 1991
war and the four-day ground war at its very end. If, therefore, the draft were resumed
during hostilities, or even a good many weeks before hostilities began, it is unlikely
that drafted recruits would reach the theater of war before the war ended.
There are scenarios in which even a short war with Iraq could lead to a long
term requirement for larger armed forces. Such increases in the active armed forces
might, for instance, be required for the range of postwar occupational tasks the
United States might undertake after a [presumably] victorious conflict with Iraq. (In
regard to war-related contingencies, as noted above, it would appear that only major
military reverses, or a major contingency elsewhere in the world simultaneous with
an ongoing war in the Persian Gulf, could generate such a requirement.) There is
every indication that such larger forces could, up to a considerably larger manpower
total than at present, be maintained by voluntary recruiting alone.
The active Armed Forces have, since FY1999, maintained a strength of slightly
under 1.4 million personnel. However, throughout the mid and late 1980s, a force
of almost 2.2 million volunteers was maintained, and recruit quality (measured by
high school graduate status and scores on a standardized aptitude test) sustained at
unprecedented highs. Were quality standards to be relaxed slightly, and/or recruiting
and compensation budgets increased as needed, it appears possible that a force of 2.3
or 2.4 million could be maintained as well. Although some prospective recruits
would be disinclined to volunteer during hostilities due to reluctance to be involved
in combat, others might be more inclined to do so due to the greater degree of
excitement, patriotism, and popular prestige resulting from involvement in a
presumably successful war.
28This figure has frequently been quoted as a maximum, and CRS is not aware of any
predictions which have suggested that more than the 1990-1991 total might be called to
active duty. See, for example, the typical statement in Schmitt, Eric. “Buildup Leaves U.S.
Nearly Set to Start Attack.” New York Times, December 8, 2002: 1, which states that “The
Pentagon has plans to mobilize as many as 265,000 members of the National Guard and
Reserves, roughly as many as for the Persian Gulf war in 1991.” There is, of course, no
military rationale for making a possible 2003 mobilization the same size as that which took
place in 1991.
29Estimates derived from data in Defense Manpower Data Center. Military Manpower
Training Report for FY2002. March 2002: 17-21, 33-37.
A Longer or Wider War and a Large Increase in Force Size. It would
thus appear that both military rationales for resuming the draft–to provide casualty
replacements and more manpower with which to expand the active duty force–would
probably be absent in regard to a war with Iraq alone, without other actual or
potential conflict elsewhere. However, if an Iraq war were followed by the need to
deploy a substantial occupation force in that country, and such a requirement were
combined with the need to deploy substantial additional forces elsewhere, the
services might have trouble recruiting sufficient volunteers to establish and maintain
the required higher force levels. Also, at some point the costs of recruiting sufficient
volunteers might become prohibitive, and would counterbalance the increased30
training and personnel management costs that a return to the draft could produce.
Official pronouncements are firm in stating that the United States could cope
with simultaneous wars with Iraq and North Korea–Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld
stated on December 23, 2002 that he “had no reason to believe that North Korea feels
emboldened because of the world’s interest in Iraq. If they do, it would be a mistake.31
We are perfectly capable of doing that which is necessary.” Nonetheless, some
analysts believe that U.S. forces are currently either too small to win two such
conflicts without a prolonged period of initial stalemate, or possibly the threat of
defeat, which could lower the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons.32
It should be noted that, historically, many wars have tended to last much longer
than predicted, either by national political leadership or the military leaders whose
job it is to plan for and conduct the war. Few Americans believed, when U.S. ground
combat forces landed in [then] South Vietnam in February1965, that the war would
not end for the United States until March 1973. Many predicted in the decade or so
preceding the outbreak of World War I in August 1914 that recent technological and
organizational advances in warfare would make the conflict short, sharp, and
decisive, rather than the four and one-half year grinding struggle that it became.
More recently, it is doubtful that Saddam Hussein or his generals–let alone the
population of Iraq–thought that when the Iraqis invaded Iran in September 1980 that
fighting would continue until late 1988. Almost 65 years ago, Winston Churchill
wrote a cautionary note about excessive faith in “short, sharp, decisive” conflicts.
It is arguably all the more significant due to the slight archaism of his language; his
unquestioned willingness throughout a military and political career in British public
30Most, if not almost all, defense manpower analysts agree that a return to conscription for
the purposes of maintaining a peacetime force of roughly the size maintained since the draft
ended in 1972 would cost more, rather than less, money than a volunteer force of the same
size. See, for example, The Differential Budget Costs of Conscription-Based Alternatives
to the All-Volunteer Force. Study Prepared for the Manpower and Personnel Directorate
(J-1) of the Joint Staff, Contract No. F49642-84-D0038. Springfield, VA, Syllogistics, Inc.,
July 23, 1986. 215 p.; U.S. General Accounting Office. Military Draft: Potential Impacts
and Other Issues. Report nos. NSIAD-88-102 and B-229465. Washington, March 10, 1988.
31Scarborough, Rowan. “Rumsfeld Says U.S. Can Win War in Two Theaters.” Washington
Times, December 24, 2002: 1.
32Scarborough, Rowan. “U.S. Ability to Fight Two Wars Doubted.” Washington Times,
December 25, 2002: 1.
life of almost 60 years to maintain strong armed forces and commit them to combat;
and his own personal combat experience (“active service” in British idiom):
Let us learn our lessons. Never, never, never believe any war will be smooth and
easy, or that anyone who embarks on the strange voyage can measures the tides
and hurricanes he will encounter. The Statesman who yields to war fever must
realize that once the signal is given, he is no longer the master of policy but the
slave of unforeseeable and uncontrollable events. Antiquated War Offices,
weak, incompetent, or arrogant Commanders, untrustworthy allies, hostile
neutrals, malignant fortune, ugly surprises, awful miscalculations–all take their
seats at the Council Board on the morrow of a declaration of war. Always
remember, however sure you are that you can easily win, that there would not be33
a war if the other man did not think he also had a chance.
Social Rationales For and Against Resuming a Draft
A variety of social and philosophical rationales have been advanced in favor of,
or opposed to, resuming the draft. Many of these apply in peacetime as well as war,
and many, because they involve value judgments, are not subject to “proof’ or
“refutation.” Two basic social arguments in favor of resuming a draft for the current
war are generally advanced: (1) a draft would insure “equitable” (a term itself subject
to a broad range of interpretations) socioeconomic, racial, and ethnic representation
in the Armed Forces; and (2) it would reinforce the concept of citizenship as entailing
responsibilities as well as rights.
Social Representation Arguments in Favor of a Draft
In time of war, some proponents of returning to conscription argue, it is
important that the discriminated-against members of American society do not bear
more than their fair share of fighting and casualties, and that those who have
benefitted the most do not bear less than their fair share. Furthermore, they
frequently suggest that the mixing of various socioeconomic classes, races, ethnic
groups, and nationalities that would occur with a broadly-based draft would
contribute to the social cohesion of the nation.
Those concerned with social representation have tended to concentrate on two
specific factors. The first is the greater proportional representation of African-
Americans in the military compared to their proportion in the overall American
population. As of FY2000, blacks comprised 20% of non-prior service enlistees and
22% of the active duty enlisted force, as compared to 12-14% of the civilians of
comparable ages.34 The second is a perceived lesser representation of children of
affluent, upper-middle-class and upper class households in the enlisted ranks of the
33Churchill, Winston S. My Early Life: A Roving Commission. New York, Charles
Scribner’s Sons, 1938 [reprinted 1958]: 232.
34Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy). Population
Representation in the Military Services, Fiscal Year 2000. February 2002: B-4, B-36.
Hereafter cited as Population Representation FY2000.
Armed Forces. DOD statistics also appear to bear out this assertion, although the
difference is, arguably, not dramatic. In FY1999, about 24% of the employed fathers
of new enlisted recruits were likely to be in “executive, managerial, administrative,
or professional” occupations, but almost 34% of all civilian youth ages 14-21 had
fathers in those occupations. The figures for mothers of new recruits were almost
29% in the four high-status occupational categories, compared to 33% of the mothers
of the 14-21 civilian youth cohort–a much smaller difference than for fathers.35 A
more elaborate and technical index of socioeconomic status indicates that “enlisted
accessions come from all socioeconomic levels. However, there is a tendency for
accessions to come from families in the lower three-quarters of the status
distribution. These differences are expressed in the occupations of parents of
accessions, as well as discrepancies in education and home ownership.”36
Social Representation Arguments in Opposition to a Draft
Those who oppose returning to a draft simply cite other arguments, and
statistics. They note, for instance, that those demographic groups most often cited in
analyses of social representation are not uniformly overrepresented in the armed
forces as compared to their presence in the overall population–and thus are not
threatened with disproportionately high casualties in time of war. For instance,
Hispanics are represented in the military to a lesser extent than their proportion in the
total population, constituting only 9% of enlisted personnel in FY2000, compared to
Women are much less represented, constituting 50% of the population and about
15% of enlisted personnel.38 Hispanics and women, therefore, by being
underrepresented in the armed forces rather than overrepresented, would therefore
arguably “benefit” by their differing proportions, as presumably they would suffer
casualties below their percentage in the overall population.39
Another example of how today’s volunteer force may be more broadly
representative of the American population than some volunteer force opponents
suggest involves the inclusion of officers in an analysis of the issue. Members of the
middle and upper socioeconomic classes whose military functions are more
35Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy). Population
Representation in the Military Services, Fiscal Year 1999. November 2000: 7-9. Hereafter
referred to as Population Representation 1999. Socioeconomic status questions were not
included in the FY2000 survey.
37Population Representation FY2000: B-36. In FY1989, these percentages were 4 and 8
respectively, indicating that the presence of Hispanics in the armed forces had become more
representative, when compared with the total population, over the ensuing 11 years. See
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Force Management Policy). Population
Representation in the Military Services,FY1989: July 1990:66.
38Population Representation FY2000: v.
39Women, of course, would also suffer far fewer casualties because they are not allowed to
serve in ground combat units and certain special operations units, but these restrictions are
a separate issue.
analogous to civilian leadership positions are present in the officer corps,40 thus, it
is argued, mitigating against their proportional absence from the enlisted force.
Finally, some point out that a truly “socially representative” force should have fewer
blacks, and more whites, and many more less-qualified individuals than the Armed
Forces currently accept. Others have suggested that a logical outcome of this latter
belief could be the imposition of racial quotas (penalizing capable minority youth
who may enlist due to lack of perceived civilian opportunities), or forcing the
military to turn away high-quality recruits to make room for less capable ones.
Another statistic cited to rebut the charge of minority overrepresentation deals
with the proportion of minorities in combat units. Contrary to many impressions held
by the general population, the proportion of African-Americans in enlisted combat
occupational specialties is less than that of whites (in FY2000, 18% of white service
members served in “infantry, gun crews, and seamanship specialties,” but only 12%
of African-Americans served in these specialties).41 Within the officer corps, in
FY2000 39% of white officers served in “tactical operations”–i.e., command and
staff in combat branches and units–while 25% of black officers served in tactical
operations.42 All of these discussions clearly raise the issue about what, if any, kinds
of “representativeness” are more significant than others, and why.
Citizenship Rights and Responsibilities
There has also been, since colonial times, a debate about whether, on the one
hand, military service is a responsibility of citizenship, not subject to individual
whim as to whether it is performed or not; or, on the other, if compelling people to
perform military service if they do not wish to is in fact is a violation of individual
liberties which strikes at the heart of American democratic principles. There are, of
course, various middle grounds between these two extremes. One, which arguably
represents the national consensus today, as it has evolved since the founding of the
Republic, is that compulsory service may be acceptable in time of a major war, if
sufficient military manpower cannot be obtained through voluntary recruiting, but it
is not acceptable in peacetime. American history contains only 12 years in which a
true “peacetime” draft operated–between 1953, when the Korean War ended, and
1965, when the Vietnam War escalated into a major conflict involving large numbers
of American ground troops. However, the five sustained major wars, lasting several
years, that the Nation has fought since 1861, have seen conscription authorized by
public law and implemented.43
40The DOD Population Representation series does not contain socioeconomic status data
on officers comparable to that it has for enlisted personnel, making direct comparisons very
41Population Representation FY2000: 3-14.
43The Civil War, 1861-1865 (in which both the Federal and Confederate forces were
sustained by conscription); World War I, 1917-1918; World War II, 1941-1945; Korean
War, 1950-1953, and the Vietnam War, 1965-1973 (the period of major American
engagement; much smaller numbers of Americans, not including any ground combat troops,
These are only a sampling of some of the main sociological arguments made for
and against a return to conscription in anticipation of, or during, a possible war
against Iraq. There are a host of other arguments, such as who should serve if there
were a draft, that would follow if the fundamental decision for conscription was
made. The debate involves fundamental values and assumptions, and what aspects
of human existence one considers important and morally significant. As such, they
are virtually impossible to bridge, if held strongly. It remains only to note that if the
draft were resumed shortly before or after an outbreak of actual hostilities, it seems
unlikely that any draftees would actually be committed to battle before a war against
Current Status of the Draft and Action Required for
Legal authority for the involuntary induction of men into the Armed Forces
expired on July 1, 1973, having been in continuous existence since 1948 (the World
War ll-era draft lasted from 1940-1946; there was no draft from late 1946 through
mid-1948). The last draftee actually entered the Armed Forces on December 27,
1972, with the exception of a few men who had been drafted before then but received
educational deferments and reported for induction later. A public law would be
required to reinstate an active draft.
Currently the Selective Service System operates on standby status. Young men
have been required to register with the system within 30 days before or after their
18th birthday since President Carter reinstated standby registration in 1980.44 At
present, 88% of eligible young men ages 18-25, and 92% of those 20-25, have in fact
registered as required by law. The penalty for not registering is a maximum of five
years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine. Nonregistrants are also ineligible for a
wide range of federal grants and loans, including most educational benefits. Women
are exempt from registration and induction.45 Statutory authority for the standby
Selective Service System (and for an active draft, should such ever be reimposed} is
contained in the Military Selective Service Act, 50 U.S.C. Appendix 451 et seq.
were engaged from 1961 on).
44The Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of male-only registration (and by inference
conscription) in Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57 (1981). However, central to the Court’s
decision was the assumption that the primary purpose of a draft would be to produce
“combat troops,” and because “women are excluded from combat by statute or military
policy, men and women are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or
registration for a draft.” However, since the Court’s decision, statutes barring women from
service in combat naval vessels or aircraft have been repealed, and women are currently
barred–and by administrative regulation, not statute–only from certain ground combat and
special operations forces units and occupational specialties, and from submarines. It might
be, then, that all-male registration and drafting would be viewed as some as more vulnerable
to a constitutional challenge.
4550 USC App. 453 requires only men to register with the System, and 50 USC App. 454 (a)
makes certain registrants, after appropriate classification, liable for military service.
A standby network of trained volunteers and administrators is ready to assist in
rapidly reconstituting an active draft mechanism, should legal authority for a draft be
reinstated by the Congress. The Selective Service System is currently required to
begin delivering inductees to the armed forces within 193 days–over six months–after
a draft begins operating.46 This is a major change from the System’s stated capability
as it existed during the Persian Gulf War of 1991. At that time the System could
fully mobilize and begin inducting men in three days, deliver the first draftees to
DOD within 13 days, and deliver 100,000 draftees within 30 days after receiving the
authority to do so.47 As most of the structure that existed in 1991 is still extant, it is
possible that the System could deliver inductees much more quickly than the 193-
day requirement indicates, if a draft were activated. Indeed, the speed with which the
World War I and World War II draft mechanisms were created suggests that even
without a standby Selective Service System, an actual draft could be operating long
before 193 days had passed.48 (On the other hand, it may be that the current system
could in fact deliver inductees well before the 193rd day, but that DOD has stated it
simply has no military requirements for an earlier delivery.)
If the existing standby mechanism were to be reactivated, young men age 18
through 26 would be subject to induction (up to age 35 if deferred when initially
called). Current plans call for those men turning 20 in the current year to be called
first, followed as necessary by men ages 21 through 25, with those called to be
determined by a birthday-based lottery, subject to existing statutory and regulatory
exemptions and deferments. Existing plans do not envision calling 18 and 19-year
olds. Student deferments have been drastically restricted from the way in which they
operated throughout most of the draft’s post-World War II history, including most
of the Vietnam War. A 1971 law provides that undergraduate students would be
deferred only until the completion of their current semester or quarter, or, if seniors,
until graduation.49 Married men would not be exempt. For further information on the
standby Selective Service System and standby draft registration, see the System’s
46See the Selective Service System website, [http://www.sss.gov].
47Information provided by the Selective Service System in January 1991 in connection with
the preparation of CRS Report 91-103 F, The Persian Gulf War and the Draft (out of print;
available only from the author, Robert Goldich).
48For World War I, see Chambers, John Whiteclay II. To Raise an Army: The Draft Comes
to Modern America. New York, Free Press, 1987; for World War II, see Flynn, George.
The Draft, 1940-1973. Lawrence, KS, University Press of Kansas: 9-52.
49P.L. 92-129, Sept. 28, 1971; the Military Selective Service Act Amendments of 1971.