Iraq / Military · August 22, 2006

The Draft? Just “Rumors on the Internets”

From the Bush / Kerry debate:

(8 October 2004, George W. Bush speaking)

I hear there’s rumors on the Internets (sic) that we’re going to have a draft. We’re not going to have a draft, period. The all- volunteer army works. It works particularly when we pay our troops well. It works when we make sure they’ve got housing, like we have done in the last military budgets.

An all-volunteer army is best suited to fight the new wars of the 21st century, which is to be specialized and to find these people as they hide around the world. We don’t need mass armies anymore. One of the things we’ve done is we’ve taken the — we’re beginning to transform our military.

And by that I mean we’re moving troops out of Korea and replacing them with more effective weapons. We don’t need as much manpower on the Korean Peninsula to keep a deterrent.

In Europe, we have massed troops as if the Soviet Union existed and was going to invade into Europe, but those days are over with. And so we’re moving troops out of Europe and replacing it with more effective equipment.

So to answer your question is, we’re withdrawing, not from the world, we’re withdrawing manpower so they can be stationed here in America, so there’s less rotation, so life is easier on their families and therefore more likely to be — we’ll be more likely to be able to keep people in the all-volunteer army.

One of the more important things we’re doing in this administration is transformation. There are some really interesting technologies. For instance, we’re flying unmanned vehicles that can send real-time messages back to stations in the United States. That saves manpower, and it saves equipment.

It also means that we can target things easier and move more quickly, which means we need to be lighter and quicker and more facile and highly trained.

Now, forget all this talk about a draft. We’re not going to have a draft so long as I am the president.

I’ve talked before about what happens when the Army brings troops active from the Individual Ready Reserve.

Depending on obligation, it’s possible for someone to be on IRR for much more than just two years. And remember, while a soldier is on IRR, he or she doesn’t have to train, doesn’t receive a paycheck, and gets little support from the military. Essentially a soldier on IRR is nothing more than a civilian, starting a new life with a new job.

There are a lot of people on IRR. IRR isn’t automatic for everyone leaving the military. Instead some members were enticed to agree to a longer IRR through the use of a sort of ‘muster out’ bonus. And now, because Bush is a shortsighted sort of person, the IRR bill has come due for 14,000 ex-army members who had become successful civilians.

I’ve said before that enlistments are down, and that the Army is now scraping the bottom of the barrel for new members. I pointed out that even Air Force members are being used to cover Army jobs. I’ve also pointed out that the Army, in desperation, has drastically increased the allowed age of enlistment to 42 years old.

This has until now had a big impact only on the Army, since they were the ones shorted the most. But that’s not true anymore. The Marines have joined in:

The Marine Corps will mobilize up to 2,500 Marines in the Individual Ready Reserve to go downrange, said Guy A. Stratton, head of Manpower and Mobilization Plans.

Those called up can expect to be mobilized for 12 to 18 months, with a maximum service time of two years, Marine officials said.

He said the Marine Corps is looking at mobilizing Marines in the following specialties: communications, engineers, military police, intelligence, aviation mechanics, truck drivers and infantry.

This tactic is more commonly called a ‘backdoor draft’:

But with active duty units already completing multiple tours in Iraq, the Pentagon has employed the rarely used tactic of calling people back from IRR status, a policy sometimes referred to as a “backdoor draft.”

According to the U.S. Army Reserve, approximately 14,000 soldiers on IRR status have been called to active duty since March 2003 and about 7,300 have been deployed to Iraq. The Marine Corps has mobilized 4,717 Marines who were classified as inactive ready reserve since Sept. 11, and 1,094 have been deployed to Iraq, according to the Marine Forces Reserve.

I’ve heard that the Navy and the Air Force have also pulled people in from IRR, but in fewer numbers than the Army or Marines. Truck drivers and infantry are needed, but it’s the technical specialties that are most needed in all branches of the service. These specialties have the longest training periods, require higher ASVAB scores for new enlistees, and are the most employable in the civilian sector after a member’s service commitment is completed.

There is not an unlimited supply of troops on IRR. At best, Bush has only ensured that the draft won’t happen while HE is president, leaving the next president to ‘clean up’ after his mess.

It seems to me that Bush Jr. has left a lot of messes to clean up. Shaky foreign relationships, a dramatic budget deficit (he started with a surplus), a failed health care policy, and no clear plan of action in Iraq, years after he declared “Mission Accomplished” from the deck of an aircraft carrier. And of course, a drastically weakened military.

It would not surprise me in the least if the Republican party deliberately puts a weak candidate up for Presidential election, just so they can spend four years blaming a Democratic President for all of America’s problems.