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Getting Drafty: The Hybrid Model of National Service

June 26, 2005

Ronald Reagan once famously said that presidents should "never say never" But when it comes to the reinstatement of the military draft, recent public opinion polls seem to suggest that the American people think "never" would be a fine idea, indeed. A recent AP/Ipsos poll showed only 27% of Americans favored conscription, with a whopping 70% opposed.
As the casualties mount and recruiting woes build from the Iraq crisis, both political parties continue to make this issue moot for the American people. President Bush and the Republicans consistently and staunchly opposed national service as part of their "free-lunch" marketing strategy for Iraq war. And with the exceptions of Representative Charles Rangel (D-NY) and rumblings from Delaware Senator Joe Biden, the Democrats have played to their base by playing on fears of the draft. (This fear mongering was one of many tactical mistakes of the Kerry campaign in 2004.)
But the time for a collective free ride on national service is over. Our overcommitted American military is stretched to the breaking point, with a terrible toll and unfair demands on active duty troops and reservists alike. As the situation in Iraq smolders, the prospect of twin crises in the Korean peninsula and Iran remain very real. All the while, the rise of Chinese economic, diplomatic and military power means the United States may once again have to pursue a strategy of continental containment in Asia. And the increasing needs for bolstered security at home and peacekeeping missions abroad mean the United States must make dramatic new investments in civil defense forces.
Those growing national security needs simply can�t � and shouldn�t � be met by a volunteer American military. The time has come for new, expanded American armed forces. Combining an enlarged professional fighting force with a new conscript-based Civil Defense Force (CDF), our new hybrid military would be prepared to face the challenges of the next decade. And by reintroducing national service, the United States might actually reinstill democratic values of shared defense and sacrifice across all sections of American society.
[Continue reading "Getting Drafty: The Hybrid Model of National Service"]

An Army of One?
Over a year ago, James Fallows in The Atlantic ("The Hollow Army") detailed the pressures and burdens pushing the American military to the limit. "The situation was serious before the invasion of Iraq," Fallow wrote. "Now it is acute." And since he penned those words in March 2004, the situation has only gotten worse � much worse.
The magnitude of the problem is staggering. With casualties mounting in Iraq, the especially hard-hit Army has missed its recruiting goals for four months running, including by a shocking 42% in April and 25% in May, respectively. The Pentagon has issued "stop-loss" orders for well over a year, preventing servicemen in units destined for Iraq or Afghanistan from retiring. To help plug gaps in Iraq, the White House and Pentagon have begun transferring troops from the American trip-wire presence in South Korea and ordered a major redeployment of two Army divisions from Europe. Some units, including elements from the Army�s 1st and 3rd Divisions, are already into their second tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan since the onset of the Iraq conflict.
The burden is on Reserve and National Guard units is even heavier and arguably, much more unfair. An excellent series of articles in The Oregonian highlighted how America�s weekend warriors and their families have borne the brunt of the prolonged deployments:

Internal Guard documents tell the story: All 10 of its special forces units, all 147 military police units, 97 of 101 infantry units and 73 of 75 armor units cannot, because of past or current mobilizations, deploy again to a war zone without reinforcements. The Guard needs a staggering $20 billion worth of equipment to sustain its operations, a bill Washington may balk at paying.
"One can conclude," said Brig. Gen. Bill Libby, commander of the Maine National Guard, "that we're going to run out of soldiers."
Any new crisis -- a bloody escalation overseas or a series of domestic terrorist attacks -- could find the Guard unable to respond and could put the United States at risk.

Disturbing as these numbers are, they tell only part of the tale of the threats to American preparedness and national security. They represent just the risks to our current undermanned efforts in against a resurgent Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and the insurgency in Iraq. They don�t speak to other regional threats, policing potential failed states, containing Chinese power and the need for new defense forces at home.
Before looking at those new strategic requirements, it is well worth looking back at how we got here.
Evolving Strategic Threats
The United States is witnessing real-time the emergence of new strategic environment and with it the need for new military capabilities and a force structure to match. From the end of World War II through the early 1970�s, the United States containment strategy assumed a �two and a half� war scenario. That is, the United States would have to prepare to fight full-scale wars against the Soviet Union in Europe, against China in Southeast Asia, as well as fighting regional communist proxies in Africa, Asia or Latin America. This set of geo-strategic threats led to a network of far flung American bases, with trip-wire forces in Berlin and the Korean peninsula, all backed by the prospect of massive American nuclear retaliation.
With the growing Sino-Soviet rivalry in the late 1960�s and the thawing of U.S. relations with China, American war planning entered a new, �one and a half� conflict phase. This posture persisted through the end of the Cold War, when the demise of the USSR ushered in a third era of �two regional conflicts� through the Bush 41, Clinton and early Bush 43 administrations. For defense planners, the likeliest two regional conflicts involved Iraq and North Korea. As late as 1990, the American military had 2.1 servicemen and women under arms, with 16 active Army divisions.
By August 2001, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was advocating a smaller, quicker and more mobile American military for this new reality, with only 8 active Army divisions. Only weeks before the September 11 attacks by Al Qaeda, Rumsfeld was planning for a new United States force posture that was already obsolete.
Even before the struggles in Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States had already learned painful lessons and the limits of its current force composition in the 1990�s. First, the 1991 Gulf War consumed virtually the entire active American Army, raising serious questions about the viability of the �two regional conflict� model. Second, large, extended and dangerous American peacekeeping missions in Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo highlighted the lack of military police or gendarmerie forces within the U.S. military. Last, the growing threat from non-state terrorist actors would require a dramatic expansion of highly skilled, quick strike American Special Forces.
As a result, Donald Rumsfeld�s vaunted "10-30-30" timetable American war fighting is a fantasy. His formula, 10 days to overthrow a rogue regime, 30 days to restore order and 30 days to redeploy for the next adventure, has not only been shattered by the Iraq experience. Even for much smaller operations, current American force levels and growing global commitments make 10-30-30 impossible, both politically and militarily.
The 1-2-2 Scenario
Over the next generation, the United States instead must prepare for a dramatically changed strategic environment. That environment calls for a new war-fighting and national security posture that can simultaneously contain one superpower rival, defeat two terror threats in failed states and maintain two police actions at home and abroad. Call it the �1-2-2 Scenario.�
The �1� refers, of course, to China. With growing Chinese economic and military power throughout Asia, the U.S. will need the capability to contain, deter or defeat its looming strategic competitor. While conflict is certainly not inevitable for the two titans whose economic futures are so intertwined, the United States must prepare to deter or prevail in any Sino-American conflict. (For an in-depth view of the how the United States Pacific Command sees deterring and fighting a potential conflict with China, see "How We Would Fight China", by Robert Kaplan in The Atlantic.)
The United States must also be prepared to fight against nations whose regimes or hosting of terrorist bases poses a clear and present danger to the United States. In the war against Al Qaeda, failed states like Afghanistan or potentially Iraq, could emerge as terrorist havens that must be destroyed. North Korea may also fit in this category, less so due to threats from nuclear missiles than the potential for its sale of atomic weapons and technology to terrorist groups. (The Atlantic again offers an interesting strategic assessment of North Korea, focusing on the objective of preventing nuclear proliferation rather than regime change.)
Beyond containing China and defeating rogue state or non-state threats, the United States must address a uniquely 21st century security need: civil defense. Civil defense takes two forms: homeland security and police actions abroad. With the persistent threat from Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations that could literally last decades, the United States needs to create a new cadre of constabulary forces for guarding airports, nuclear and chemical plants, ports and transportation hubs, as well as critical infrastructure. These paramilitary forces, modeled on the gendarmerie in France or the carbinieri in Italy, would serve these homeland security functions at home, while providing the military policing functions for peace-keeping so desperately lacking in the Balkans in the 1990�s, Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban, and Iraq after the fall of Saddam. As in so many areas, the Hart-Rudman Commission presciently highlighted the growing need for constabulary forces well before 9/11 and has continued to do so since.
What Uncle Sam Really Needs
The new global threat environment for the United States over the next decade (and perhaps generation) requires larger, but redesigned force structure. In a nutshell, the United States will need to:

  1. Field Up to 5 New Army and Marine Divisions. As long as the Iraq occupation and the Al Qaeda threat persist at its current level (likely to be at least the next decade), the U.S. will need to field significantly more battle-ready divisions. Democrats, including John Kerry, Wesley Clark and Ellen Tauscher, have led the call for two new divisions and up to 40,000 troops. As the Iraq troop rotations have shown and the 1-2-2 scenario implies, that�s just not enough.
  2. Double Special Operations Forces. Special Ops units played a critical role in Afghanistan and will be essential in the coming battles against Al Qaeda. The Iraq War cannibalized the limited numbers of Special Forces units, likely aiding Osama Bin Laden�s escape across the Pakistani border.
  3. Create a New Civil Defense Force (CDF). Bosnia, Kosovo and Baghdad all showed the dire consequences of the absence of American military police units. Imagine how differently post-war Iraq may have looked with 50,000 American military police stopping the looting in Baghdad on April 10, 2003.) Those needs abroad, coupled with the homeland security needs outlined above (which should, by the way, include taking over airport screening from the TSA), suggest an American Civil Defense Force (CDF) of up to 200,000.
  4. Bolster the Guard and Reserves. All-out war with China is unlikely, but other conflicts around the globe are not. The terrible toll from Iraq on National Guardsmen, Reservists, their families and their communities demonstrates the clear shortcomings America already faces.
  5. Replace Most Contractor Roles. The invasion and occupation of Iraq has involved tens of thousands of contractors. These contract personnel provide not only logistical services (think Halliburton) once performed by the military itself, but include a wide array of security roles as well. As Frontline recently documented, these contractors are expensive, poorly managed and creating a host of command and control problems for the regular military. The dangerous trend towards military privatization should be reversed, with most contracted roles returned to regular military units.
  6. Pay the Bill. This new force expansion will be costly, perhaps $100 billion a year. The price tag for a 20,000 person armored division is estimated at up to $10 billion annually. The cost of five new divisions and a 200,000 person Civil Defense Force would be high, offset only by the saving for military contractors abroad and TSA personnel at home. $500 billion defense budgets for the next decade can mean only one thing: just as in World War II, taxes will have to go up.
  7. Build National Consensus and Unity. National security investments of this magnitude and duration mean that Washington must educate the American people on the nature of the threats faced by the nation and what sacrifices of lives, blood and treasure will be required to defeat them. Those sacrifices require the participation of every American.

The Hybrid Model: National Service Redefined
To address the United States� new security needs, I propose a new, �hybrid model� of national service. This Hybrid Model combines a volunteer, professional fighting force with a conscripted Civil Defense Force for homeland security here and peacekeeping missions abroad.
Here�s how it would work.
The United States would create a new Civil Defense Force of at least 250,000 servicemen and women. Washington would draft by lottery from Americans aged 19 to 22. Within the United States, the CDF could function as a state-alone force, or perhaps as adjuncts to the National Guard or Department of Homeland Security agencies (such as such as the Coast Guard, Transportation Security Administration, Immigration, and Border Patrol). (Such a structure helps address the requirements of the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, under which regular military forces cannot play a police role on American soil.) Its units would police borders, guard ports, staff airport checkpoints (replacing the TSA personnel), and monitor major events, energy facilities and transportation hubs. (Whether other non-violent, community assistance roles would be available to conscripts, as suggested by Phillip Carter and Paul Glastris in "The Case for the Draft", is a discussion left for another time.)
Outside the United States, CDF units would provide peacekeeping and military police functions. They would address roles that have weighed down regular American forces in places like Haiti, Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo, or that had been abdicated altogether (in Iraq or Afghanistan outside of Kabul. Working with other U.S., UN or host nation military personnel (depending on the situation), these units would provide security, transportation routing and crime prevention duties. Akin to the Italian carbinieri, they would have automatic weapons and light armored vehicles. But their primary mission would be security maintenance, not war fighting.
For war fighting, the United States would maintain and augment its professional military of Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Maintaining the all-volunteer military pays real dividends in terms of professionalism, skill levels, unit cohesion, and career track. A conscript army would not replace today�s military.
But the realities of recruiting in wartime mean that the newly reinstated draft will no doubt have to provide troops for the five new divisions described above. The new draft would address this with incentives. Conscripts choosing to join the professional military would serve shorter terms of duty (12 or 18 months versus two years in the CDF). Draftees opting for regular military units would also receive the same pay, sign up bonuses, reenlistment rewards, education funding and health care as volunteers. In this way, a new draft could provide the needed troops for the needed expansion of America�s professional military, without compromising the hybrid model.
The Hybrid Model of National Service provides a compelling solution to the security challenges facing the United States in the early 21st century. It provides the forces to contain China, defeat Al Qaeda, rogue regimes and terrorist failed states in Iraq and elsewhere, and provides the civil defense apparatus to keep the peace abroad and maintain security at home.
But that�s not the only the benefit of the Hybrid Model. It would also help create an ethos of national service and shared sacrifice among younger Americans, men and women alike. It would provide, as Robert Putnam describes in Bowling Alone, "bridging social capital" that cuts across racial, ethnic, economic and religious lines. With no college deferments and parental status perhaps the only exemption, the wealthy and the working class would meet in service to their country. And by enshrining shared sacrifice as a core national value, the Hybrid Model might help our nation exercise much greater care and restraint when sending our young women and men into harm�s way.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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