Sunday, January 12, 2014

MythBusters - Part I

OK, seydlitz started the “Clausewitzian” (strategic) discussion of the Draft, and I said I had some technocratic force structure thoughts to add on the subject of conscription in the US.  The more I pondered and made notes, the more I realized that, like seydlitz’s treatise, mine would have to be multi-part, and would be best handled as individual threads, to allow focused comment.  The various parts to follow were not necessarily developed in that order, but rather, have evolved from my first thoughts as I tackled the deeply imbedded myths, misconceptions and false assumptions about the Draft vs the AVF.

In American culture, Viet Nam demonized the Draft.  The negative “halo effect” of the “immorality” of  a highly unpopular war, generalized that “immorality” to all aspects of military service and accession means.   Most notably demonized was the Draft, which was doubly immoral for involuntarily conscripting our youth to die in immoral political pursuits.  This demonization was aided and abetted by politicians all the way to Richard Nixon, who was more than willing to be an “End the Draft” candidate.  Thus, all kinds of inaccurate condemnations of the Draft and how it misfunctioned went unchallenged, as the Draft was the Devil Incarnate and “guilty until proven innocent”, even among some key members of the Armed Forces who were happy to allow the Draft to divert attention from strategic and operational incompetency.

I am only going to address the “mechanics” of the draft, not the myths about draftees or certain ethnic groups serving and dying in greater proportion.  I think one will find that the “mechanics” were quite sound, and actually could and did deliver the appropriate “quality” and “quantity” of enlisted personnel into all the Armed Forces, either directly or indirectly.  Whether this sound and effective delivery system was politically acceptable is another story.

So here were go with MythBusters – Part I

Let’s start with looking how the draft worked in the US after Korea, and more specifically the 1958 to 1973 Draft, with which I had first hand experience.

How did the general male population “respond” to the draft?

Basically, at that time, every able-bodied, mentally qualified American youth faced the “risk” of service, unless granted a deferment for school attendance, marital status, dependents, critical civilian occupation, religious grounds or criminal record.   Consequently, if in the fully eligible pool, one could choose to:

1) Sweat it out and not know whether the “risk” was real until making it through to about age 25.  If you are selected, you simply take what you get.  If not selected, then carry on.
1.b) A variation on 1, is where, upon receiving an induction notice, you scramble trying to find a more desirable enlistment option from the Air Force, Navy or Marines, assuming you can find a recruiter willing to process an inductee for enlistment (a bit of a no-no) in the 10-15 days you had to pull this one off.  Not a high probability of success, but some did pull it off.
2) Postpone the “risk” by college deferment.  The reality of this was that when a college deferment expired, either by graduation or even more surely by dropping out, you tended to be next in line for conscription.
3) “Manage” the risk” by volunteering.  This could be enlistment in the Active or Reserve component, enrollment as a college student in an Officer Accession program (ROTC, Marine PLC, etc) or even “volunteering for the draft” through your local draft board.  Effectively, these options enabled the individual a fair amount of choice over the timing and duration of their service, the branch of service, as well as some control over the occupational field and a choice of enlisted or officer service.
4) Face the “risk” of prosecution or virtual exile for resisting and or evading the Draft.

The realities and myths of the each of the Services tended to skew how people executed choice number 3.  There is little doubt that the Army could not offer the “prestige” of the Corps, the “advanced training” of the Air Force or the “adventure” of the Navy.  Not only was the Army the primary “user” of the draft, but the idea abounded that the Army needed draftees because all the “better candidates got into the better Services”, further diminished the view of the quality of the population in the Army.  I can tell you, both anecdotally from personal experience, as well as from the actual standards and functioning of the accessions system back then, a fair number of Navy “deck apes” (those sailors who chip paint, swab decks, mend canvas and create ornamental rope work) were far from “better candidates” in any sense of the word other than being able to handle mindless, arduous tasks necessary to the function of the ship.

Thus, the Air Force, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard tended to get “first shot” at the available “volunteering” manpower, and could claim to be enforcing “higher standards” for enlistment, even though not always doing so, other than for the lowest skill level jobs.  Little hoopla was made of the Army employing virtually the same standards for equivalent higher skill MOSes.

How did the Services employ the workings of the draft?

Military accessions basically fell into three general motive categories:

1. Real volunteers, who would have served whether or not conscription was in play.
2. Draft motivated volunteers, who were exercising the “Manage the Risk” approach given above.
3. Actual conscripts, who simply acquiesced to the draft.

Keep in mind that the Services had mental and physical standards for accessions, be they draftees or “volunteers”, and not just in general, but of varying stringency for various MOS billets to be filled.  A radio repairman, hospital corpsman or intel specialist had to meet the same qualifications regardless of method of accession.  If anything, conscripts tended to be “overqualified” rather than “underqualified”.

From the viewpoint of the Military Services, the draft gave them guaranteed accession rates with the ability to manage the “quality” of the people being accessed.  All the Services could choose from qualified applicants in “motive groups 1 & 2” to get the numbers of personnel of the appropriate mental and physical qualities to fill the MOS vacancies anticipated, and then, if necessary, access to the remaining general draft eligible population to meet those needs not filled by “volunteers”.  The draft eligible population still had sufficient numbers of men with the range of mental and physical qualities to properly staff the various MOS billets. 

As said above, the Army was simply the victim of a lesser image, and thus tended to need some conscripts.  The Army simply provided the Induction Centers with their conscript personnel needs in both “quality” and “quantity”, and the pool of available personnel was culled via Pre-Induction physicals and testing to meet those personnel needs.  In fact, in 1964, to make the system even more responsive, the Selective Service System began performing Pre-Induction physical and mental testing shortly after each male registered for the draft, rather than 60-90 days before anticipated induction age of 21-22.  This allowed the “pack to be culled” to meet physical and mental category needs a couple of years before the induction process, not during it, saving everyone, to include draft aged males, time and effort.  It also provided higher mental category men an incentive to look at various enlistment options well in advance to exercise the “Manage the Risk” option, as high mental category could generally get you a choice of a better “volunteer” billet, but did not necessarily ensure a high mental category billet if drafted.

In summary, the Post Korea Draft provided the Services, both directly and indirectly, with their manpower needs in both “quality” and “quantity”.  Even when the demographics were a bit skewed by men “gaming the system” through deferments, the Draft continued to meet the Services’ valid enlisted accession needs without lowering standards.  From a technocratic standpoint, the Draft’s mission was delivering properly qualified troops.  Demographics were a political issue.  As said in the beginning, let’s leave the politics for another day.  Force structure needs are objective, politics are subjective.

P.S.  Note that I did not address other "positive" post induction personnel management benefits of conscription.  Having "overqualified" conscripts had several pluses.  For example, once in the Army, higher quality conscripts were often offered opportunities, either enlisted or OCS in return for a voluntary lengthening of service obligation.  Thus, an excess of initial accession "quality troops" could and was used to address more than just "Pvt Snuffy" requirements.


  1. Look, conscription can scientifically be proved to be wrong. Only a struggle for the own nation's sovereignty can justify it.
    In all other cases it's proven to be inefficient, wasteful, due to incredible hidden costs.

    There's thus little reason to discuss this sexually discriminating underpaid involuntary labour with partial loss of human rights.
    Let's rather discuss how to get enough volunteers for the reserves, and how to set up a right kind of reserves.

  2. Sven-

    I love it whn you get emotional. ;-)

    At no point did I judge the "right or wrong" of conscription. The above is a basic "manpower management" view of how the US system worked during its final years. That's something that has been misunderstood in a major fashion.

    There was both a "Cold" and a "Hot" war going on at the time, and regardless of the subjective merits of those two "conflicts", the Draft functioned as intended, and resulted in personnel costs of about 1/3rd of that necessary to man the current US military, while providing equal or better troops in uniform. That will be addressed, BTW, in a subsequent Part of MythBusters.

    Might I ask you to amplify on two or more of those "incredible hidden costs"?

    As to your "reserves" hypothesis, please help us with a new thread expanding on that so it can be addressed in a focused manner.

  3. Al-

    Nice thread. It will be an interesting comparison to what I will be posting since I'm using US conscription during 1917-18 as my example.

  4. "personnel costs of about 1/3rd of that necessary to man the current US military"
    That's the official figure only.

    The problem with conscription is that it doesn't make use of self-selection.
    Imagine a crowded marketplace. A speaker on a platform announces pay levels and some in the crowd volunteer for service at that pay level. The ones who dislike such service the least will volunteer at the lowest pay levels. The speaker raises the level till enough men have volunteered.
    Compare conscription: The state just grabs people at will, even those who really, really hate military service (let's ignore draft dodging for the sake of simplicity for a while) - and some of those who would easily be convinced to volunteer may even not be called up.

    The conscripted force includes people who would only have volunteered for a much, much higher pay. This difference between actual and demanded pay is what economic science uses to monetise the cost of compulsion.

    It's inevitable that a volunteer system won't have nearly as much such hidden costs of compulsion (some people change their mind, though) as conscription would.

    The hidden costs of compulsion are real costs to society, even though they're not official, fiscal costs to the government.
    A government run well for its people instead of for its own sake will not use conscription except in dire emergencies.

    About reserves: I wrote on that years ago, and have another blog post in draft stage about it.

  5. Another inefficiency of conscription is the worse employment of personnel.
    The practically free, unlimited supply of conscripts will inevitably be employed less efficiently than higher-paid, difficult to recruit volunteers.

    One example which I witnessed: Sauna Boy
    A German conscript in his mid-20's got torn out of his civilian life, conscripted into the Luftwaffe at one third of his civilian pay, was not employed in his valuable civilian speciality (system admin), turned out to have back problems and was unable to carry a rucksack, but was kept in service.
    His relationship broke, his job was lost and his apartment was lost.
    After basic he ended up as sauna boy, handing out towels and collecting towels at the barracks' own sauna for six hours, five days a week, for months.
    Others from his cohort were sent to operate a diesel fuel station on the airfield. A surveillance camera would have sufficed to replace the entire manning of this post if only the civilian cars had been banned from entering the military airbase. Personnel at that gas station: The small unit leader and six men, all in the same single shift five days a week.
    The small unit leader got fed up and allowed most of his men to be AWOL till some top brass discovered it.

    Why did these things happen? The system had fed too many conscripts into the fighter wing, and nobody cared to correct anything since they were all essentially irrelevant cheap labour.

  6. Sven

    While I follow your emotion and ideology, logic seems to be missing. National defense is not a market based product, but a national (collective) interest. If a nation (the people) decides that a military force is in its best interest, is turning over staffing to the forces of the market prudent or even effective? The "popular" All Volunteer Force in the US is costing 3X the price of the former mixed force of conscripts and volunteers, and cannot be proven to be more effective. I will address that in detail later. Nor is it an effective deterrent to elected leaders engaging in military adventurism, as the constituents only bear voluntary mortal burdens for such decisions. Such is the case in the US right now.

    What you are describing are not ills of conscription, but the ills of failed leadership from top to bottom. Similar ills take place every day in the civilian sector for the same reasons. Look at the massive fraud committed by German banks in the Libor scandal or the falsification of mortgages. And those banks were staffed by very well paid people who were voluntarily employed there. Standards that are not enforced cease to be standards. Self interest drove these scandals.

    Sorry, but your arguments don't hunt.

  7. You still ignore the hidden costs: "(...)is costing 3X the price of(...)"
    No, it doesn't. At most - if at all - the fiscal costs are 3x, not the overall costs.
    You don't count the costs of compulsion? Well, so you're fine if I abduct you for a year and compensate you with a third of your civilian income, right? Would this matter to you, should society reject this action?

    And let's face it: National security in NATO countries does not need any drastic measures at all. We could cut half of NATO's military spending and still be safe, entirely without conscription.

    "National defense is not a market based product, but a national (collective) interest."
    It is, but you cannot prove that it requires conscription except in emergencies. So what? What's the meaning of your remark then?
    A market based service solution of superior efficiency is known to serve the national interest. There's no need for compulsion and the toleration of inefficiency in pursuit of that interest.
    You also misunderstood the nature of the inefficient employment argument: It's relative, not absolute. All systems are inefficient, but this is no excuse for using one that's systemically more inefficient. To make that case (as you did) is a logical fallacy.

    You don't dare to claim that more difficult to recruit, more expensive volunteers are going to be employed worse or equal as conscripts, right? So there should be no doubt about the (ceteris paribus) superior efficiency of personnel employment in a volunteer army.

  8. S.O. "You don't dare to claim that more difficult to recruit, more expensive volunteers are going to be employed worse or equal as conscripts, right?"

    First off, our so called "conscript" military was less than 25% conscripts. Second, volunteers and conscripts alike were generally assigned on the basis of their qualifications. You would be hard pressed find someone with a graduate degree working in the kitchen, and you didn't find the lowest allowable mental category working in avionics repair.

    We accepted volunteers and conscripted the remainder solely to meet real force structure needs. There has never been "Universal Service" in the US as was the case in Germany. You are confusing the German practice of conscripting for conscription's sake with the US practice of conscripting to fill specific authorized positions in a defined military organization.

    You have not only changed the subject, you are barking up the wrong tree. The US is not Germany.

    1. You're still set on that logical fallacy.
      It doesn't matter how the jobs were assigned in itself.
      I claim that the job allocation is less under pressure to perform well if the manpower to be allocated is recruited easily and cheaply.
      That's a relative statement. To describe how one side looked is irrelevant for its relative position without considering how the other side looked like.
      Germany did in theory assign conscripts according to skills and potential (physical fitness grades, IQ test) as well, but that didn't prevent sauna boy.
      The personnel system was sloppy, and it would have been under more pressure to not be sloppy if manpower was less ubiquitous and more expensive.

      And that's why I didn't change the subject. Cheaper manpower => sloppier manpower employment => less efficiency = contra conscription argument

      Besides, the Bundeswehr was afaik never much above 50% conscripts either, what who cares? This is about the conscripts, not about the others.

  9. Sven

    I am more than willing to accept your word that the German personnel system was sloppy and the leadership might have been weak or misdirected. However, as implausible as it might sound to you, just because Germany cannot get something right, that does not preclude another country from doing better, even if only slightly.

    1. This is a systemic issue, not a national one (and we're rarely accused of not getting some organization stuff done well).
      With cheaper labour, would you be more concerned about making good use about it than with more expensive manpower? No.

      Would you be exactly as concerned about it? Seriously, that's implausible.

      Would you be more concerned about it? I say yes, and I assert you really, really need to have fixated your mind on your opinion if you can't say yes as well.

      Now if you're more concerned about efficient employment of manpower with more expensive manpower, you gotta be less concerned about it with less expensive manpower.

      The costs of compulsion are the worse issue, though.

      By the way; you did call my stuff "ideology" today. It's not ideology. It's applied economic science.

      I'm wading deep enough in this stuff that I could tell you some minor econ science argument which would actually weaken my case slightly, but that's not decisive anyway, so who cares.

  10. Sven- Having led your co called "cheap labor" on the battlefield more than once, which is, surprise of surprises, what the military is ultimately about, I most certainly was concerned with making good use of all my troops, regardless of their pay rate. Not doing so puts the mission, the lives of the troops and my life at unnecessary risk.

    Now, if you are using your armed forces simply as a domestic labor pool, then waste away. To be frank, any subordinate of mine that might have viewed his troops simply as labor, be it cheap or expensive, would have been in for some serious counseling, if not outright relief.

    We are not talking about BMW here, we are talking about lives. And while "applied economic science" has no measure of the preciousness of lives, military leadership must.

    1. Actually, it's the other way around.
      The military cannot tell the value of a life and thus has no "measure of the preciousness of lives", while economists can (and did) determine with empiricism what's the marginal rate of life-saving spendings. Thus economists can at least calculate what a life is 'worth' to the institution that's spending on saving lives.

      But your attempt to gain moral high ground is pointless anyway. I'm defending freedom against involuntary labour of innocents here.
      You chose to argue on the team for the oppression of innocent citizens for months or years of their lives, based on sexual discrimination, with apparently inevitably unfair low pay, and you apparently favour to hit these guys also with temporary partial loss of human rights, such as free speech and other rights, such as free choice of work, freedom of organizing into a group, unlimited political activities, free choice where to live and go and so on.
      I'm overwhelmingly on the side of freedom here. What conscription supporter don't get is that they're on the side of tyranny, subjecting a part of the population to oppression.
      I could choose much more mean and abrasive words to describe this, that's for sure.
      And it doesn't matter whether you or the people you encountered were not intent to waste manpower. What matters is the relative likeliness of manpower being wasted.

  11. S O-

    "By the way; you did call my stuff "ideology" today. It's not ideology. It's applied economic science."

    Marxist? . . . Or, rather some of the neo-liberal stuff (not near as convincing) . . . but I agree with Al, and it's what many would call ideology, thinking in terms of a mental system, a "global perspective" . . . "rational capitalism" in your case I suppose . . . which doesn't come across as very rational of late . . . more like a rigged casino.

    Conscription is only narrowly about efficiency, and never about profit, least of all in material terms for the individual. Ideally, it's about service to the community and the state and improving the moral and material cohesion of both by their constantly interacting together. It's about purpose, resolve and result, and it only becomes apparent how successful the whole institution has been when you actually need it, in a national emergency.

    It also requires specific, but general political conditions present within the political community/state wishing to utilize this option to achieve social/military power.

    1. You write about "rational"?
      Then take on my case with rational arguments or face the fact that you cannot. Namecalling isn't an argument.

      My case is falsifiable if it's wrong and thus rational debate on it is possible.
      "service to the community" blather isn't. That's just BS talk.

      A government exists to serve the citizens as a group. If an institution of the government oppresses a part of these citizens by forcing them into labour with the threat of prison then there better be a really good justification. I admit an existential crisis provides one, but in normal times conscription is outright wrong. It hurts the own society much more than a volunteer-based military.
      It's no better than grabbing some folks by chance and throwing them into coal mines for involuntary labour just because some other people feel that's how it should be because energy is vital.
      It's wrong. Citizens are not subserviant to their own government in a free nation. They don't need to serve their government or community involuntarily unless it's necessary or maybe if they committed a crime.

      We can make do and prepare for emergencies without compulsion or by limiting compulsion to forcing volunteers to keep their pledge till their term is over.
      The way to go is to skip force and hidden costs and to create reserves with short-serving volunteers who get paid well, and are released into the reserves (or accepted as volunteers) after their extended basic training. This way NATO could easily have millions of trained men in the reserves. That's enough. India and China are far away.

    2. S O-

      "Rational capitalism" is a Weberian term and denotes simply property/commodities as objects of trade utilized by individuals for profit making enterprise within a market economy controlled by accurate record keeping.

      Marxism was perhaps the first "applied economic science", at least that was the claim of its adherents . . .

      The first step in falsification, if that is what you are attempting, would be to unambiguously list your initial assumptions . . .

      Imo, looking at this from an economics perspective is not going to provide one with a necessary overview of what conscription encompasses . . .

  12. Nice post. It was especially nice to see you refer to conscription as a tool to raise "necessary" manpower. That is, ultimately, what it's for. Unfortunately a lot of the arguments for conscription I read these days are more about social engineering than necessity.

  13. Nice post Al. I agree with you (and Andy) re using conscription to raise 'necessary manpower'. I surmise that the machinery for conscription is still there as I see pamphlets and posters in the local post office for all 18 year olds to register. Not enforced currently but surely would be with a declaration of war by congress, a major one.

    On the other hand - in peacetime there is some truth to what Svenn alludes to re his claim that "job allocation is less under pressure to perform well if the manpower to be allocated is recruited easily and cheaply." Or even in a semi-peace like the cold war when I witnessed that myself. A friend and neighbor chose your option 3 and enlisted in the Air Force back in 1959 when he turned 18. He was happy despite the low pay because of the free training he got as a plumber. After boot and MOS training he spent the rest of his AF commitment assigned to the officer's swimming pool. He had no other duties other than keeping the swimming pool pumps and filters running smoothly. He never deployed overseas or even on CONUS exercises. He is a rich man now with a mansions in Palm Springs and Vail - he attributes his wealth to his free trade school training by Uncle Sam and his determination to not make the same mistake with under-utilizing employees when he started his own business.

    But where Svenn is right is that my plumber pal was woefully underemployed most likely because of the cheap available labor at that time in the AF.

    Don't mean to pick on the AF, it was just as bad in the Corps and in the other services I am sure. And I have seen similar or worse circumstances of under-allocation of labor in corporate life. And those were true civilian corporations, not government contractors or aerospace businesses and not affiliated with government.

  14. There is another drawback to enforced servitude: Amateurism.

    The troopers that I know all are technical experts who use complicated machinery via complicated rituals to perform an orchestrated symphony of motion and fire. I frankly doubt that you can train people in the two or three years that a draft would allow to perform at that level. Getting any actual "mileage" out of them would be problematic as they would age out just as they were getting useful.

    Instead, the military would necessarily down-skill to a level that *could* be trained and used. This would have the result of downgrading the performance of everything.

  15. @Ael

    Here one could reply that the professional BEF of 1914 was not that better than the opposing draftess. :-)

    More serious: In a drafted force you may find men/women with highly valuable job backgrounds or spare time experiences in right places, people who would not join a volunteer force due to economic reasons. These draftees may provide a quality you do not get with volunteers, this may even include combat related jobes like high altitude platoons of Gebirgsjäger etc.

    The quality aspect is IMHO a double edged sword, esp. when we factor in reserve officers and the possibility that the force has to be expanded rapidly or suffers high losses at the beginning of a war, here a good draft system may win.

    For me, the whole discussion comes down to the question: Is a force with high numbers necessary? If not, and in central Europe the situation changed completely in 1989, I suggest to avoid the draft for economic reasons. My 15 months as draftee cost me more than 75000 USD net wage.


  16. Mike- Indeed, there were people who were not employed as trained. However, the purpose of the post was describe the method used to bring new recruits into the military, not the subsequent assignment and employment policies. The manpower of the American military has basically been broken into four distinct management “offices”:

    1. Operators – those that lead and operate the force
    2. Requirements – those that determine the present and future manning requirements, based upon statuatory strength limits and organization structure and statistical attrition and turnover.
    3. Assignments – those that assign and reassign personnel to meet requirements
    4. Accessions – those that are responsible for recruiting new personnel based on projected requirements

    Individual accessions in the Armed forces are made against projected requirements. We don’t wait until a vacancy actually exists and then recruit, as there isn’t a labor pool of fully trained personnel running around looking for each specific job, and the “proper” mission of the military is a bit too vital to intentionally build time lags into readiness. A future "plumber" is accessed and entered into training before the vacancy actually exists in order for that plumber to be fully trained and ready to deploy to that projected vacancy (death, new position, ETS, transfer, new construction) in time to fill it. In the case of Mike’s plumber friend, we are talking about a period in time when establishing requirements for accessions, assignments and transfers was done manually, for crap's sake. The USAF projected the need for a plumber at Griffiss AFB, NY, and issued an accession requirement, probably a year in advance. Griffiss ultimately, for whatever reason, did not need that one plumber one year later. Shocking turn of events. So what does the Air Force do? Fire him, send him to a new school to learn a different trade, pack him up and send him to Guam, where a vacancy will be opening in three months or agree with the Airman to make the best of a bad situation and have him perform other duties at the base? However, the more significant question is whether this system of needs projections and fulfillment accurately filled enough of the billets at Griffiss with fully qualified troops to provide a fully mission capable Fighter Interceptor Wing.

    Within any system, no matter how “scientific” it may be, there will always be lost “energy” or “efficiency” due to friction, hysteresis, mechanical inefficiency, human error and the like. However, the real question is if the organization is effective – able to successfully perform the mission. The rational question is not if every last swinging dick is placed in the optimal position, but if all positions are filled by a fully competent person in a timely manner. When you are dealing with a worldwide force of 2 million or so people, no one, not even the world’s best economic scientist can predict manpower requirements down to the individual vacancy level required in a given point on earth on a given day. For example, while we may know the mortality rate for the entire force, sometimes some people just refuse to die when the economic scientist says they should, or a given class of plumbers refuses to suffer the same attrition rate as the economic scientists predicted, and lo and behold we have two extra plumbers.

    Now, before Sven jumps in with his “reserve forces” theories, the same issues of projected vacancies and fully trained, available personnel arises. Trying to manage projected individual requirements with “reservists” or using reservists to fill unpredictable shortfalls means they would have to be treated as regular enlistees, except their active duty tours would be less predictable. At the unit level, no nation has been able to form, equip and train reserve formations above the battalion level, at best, that were mission capable without extensive collective training. (Not that I learned anything from a tour as Chief, Collective Training Division for a 6 state area)

  17. ael-

    I will be addressing your "quality" issue in another thread. However, conscripts in the 1958 - 1973 era, with which I have first hand knowledge, did not comprise the entire force, and thus were not necessarily assigned to fields that required extensive training. Conscripts were a minority of the force, and totally absent from the Navy and Air Force, and of negligible numbers in the Marine Corps.

    As to all that gee-whiz technology, how do you compare your local auto mechanic who plugs in a computerized diagnostic machine to tell him which gee-whiz hi-tech or low-tech components to replace with the fellow who taught me auto mechanics in 1957 when we had to isolate the fault in a step by step manner and determine that to repair, adjust or replace? Troops have been using state of the art technology successfully at every state of that art for centuries, yet I would bet their IQ has been quite constant. Spurious argument.

    As to length of service, when the balloon goes up, conscripts can and have been kept on active duty, just as was done with "Stop Loss" in the AVF.

    Most comparisons of the AVF to the pre-AVF are anecdotal and/or mythical.

  18. Just some personal observations regarding the issue of conscription in general:

    1. One thing that the "peacetime" draft helped the U.S. Army do was keep the RC units up to strength. Being a reservist or guardsman made you exempt from the draft and allowed you a little more "control" over what the Army did with you (Al's Option 3). One of the single biggest problems the Armu I knew had in the Nineties was strength management; almost every RC unit is was assigned to was anywhere between marginally to seriously understrength. Every so often we'd hear from some old troop who had been in the units back in the Sixties marveling at how all they had to do was open the door to the orderly room and the volunteers would come rushing in, at which point I'd usually smack my forehead...

    2. The other point here is that actual MOS training has remained virtually unchanged from the Fifties; a unit is expected to receive replacement troops approximately six months from civvie street and plug them in to 10-level tasks.

    these guys are generally expected to have moved up to first-level supervisor (E-5 sergeant or 20- skill level) no later than the end of their first enlistment (three years maximum) - meaning that whether you're looking at draftees or volunteers you're going to need new troopers at that point. There are no "career privates" in the U.S. Army and haven't been since probably 1945...

    And speaking from personal experience, most Army systems are designed to be usable by people with a minimum of train-up. Yes, the more you train the better you get. But this stuff isn't rocket science, for the most part. One of the most demanding tasks I am personally familiar with is fire direction officer in an FA battery and that task is handled by a 2LT right out of Officer Basic (with a SSG FDC Chief to help out as needed, but, still...)

  19. There have been many countries that have had a form of "Universal National Service" where all able bodied males were required to serve a defined term in the military or a term in an acceptable public service organization, like the ambulance corps. Since "all" are required to serve, this led to staffing numbers being inflated to accommodate the population, entrance qualifications being artificially raised to reduce the size of the pool of "eligibles" or terms of service being reduced to use turn over to accommodate the size of the population. For example, in Germany, conscript service (military and alternative) had been reduced to six months in order to accommodate the numbers of males in the population.

    In the American model, where only military service was addressed, and the requirement was not "Universal National Service", the size of the force was set to meet operational requirements, and conscript numbers were simply that necessary to meet new accession requirement after volunteers were accommodated. The size of the force was never increased, held static or reductions slowed, nor was term of service reduced to accommodate the size of the available population.

  20. To put it another way - assuming I understand what you're saying, Al - the total size of the potential pool of draftees was fixed (by the number of eighteen-year-olds less deferments, physical failuers, etc.) and the force levels were fixed (by Congress) and the term of service was fixed (by the services) so what changed was the number of numbers drawn. Need lots of bodies? Draw lots of numbers. Just a few? Then just a few.

    Seems like a workable system, and it seems like one that would work again if done this way.

    Here's the thing, tho, and possibly this is a myth that gets busted in your next post, but the guys I served with from the draft era would tell you as a fact that if you had any sort of "connections" you could game the system, that only the poor dumb fucks with no cash and no connections would actually get called up.

    And it DID take some pull to get into the RC units during Vietnam; my old FA unit had a waiting list almost as big as the UMR - everybody "knew" that the Guard's light artillery wasn't going to the 'Nam...

    Just wondering how that played into all this, if it did in any sort of cerious or systematic way...

  21. Maybe the American military is different. In Canada, our enlisted are typically a *lot* older than fresh out of high school.

    I have worked with "young" batteries and older ones and there is a world of difference in how things get done. Simply put, having people trained for only one job makes the whole gun position a lot slower and more fragile.

    Go look at the list of Canadian casualties in Afghanistan . Nobody was 18 or 19 and there were quite a few corporals in their late 20's.

    In Canada, reserve enlistment age is 17 (many reservists died in Afghanistan) and regular army enlistment is 18.

    BTW, the mechanics that work on my cars are also a lot older than 21. It isn't the IQ that is the problem, it is the time it takes to actually learn the job. Organizations that don't have a lot of cross-trained folks are vulnerable to disruption.

  22. Chief-

    Yes, as Viet Nam ramped up, "gaming the system" to get a deferment or get into the RC became a way to deal with the draft, but was not as pervasive or effective as popular legend would paint. At least the actual demographics do not support any major skewing of the conscript nor “volunteer” population.

    First off, “The Draft” was not some number crunching, body snatching DC based operation. Accession goals were regional, and accessions handled by “Local Draft Boards”. The idea (from WWII’s general mobilization) was that military accessions (draft or volunteer) could not be allowed to deteriorate the industrial and social base at home. Thus, during WWII, in some low population, war industry heavy locales, not only were some workers draft deferred, but they were also rejected for enlistment. The situation was similar for teachers, police, firemen, etc. But, it was the local board’s duty to balance the essential needs in their locale with the mobilization needs of the country. Thus, based on the actual labor pool and employed labor force, a cop in Los Angeles might be able to enlist or be drafted while a cop in Mineral Wells, TX might not. While the post WWII needs of the military did not need this careful balance of home and military manpower needs, the notion of occupational and education attendance deferment remained in the system. Thus, college students and teachers, for example, remained deferred as “universally defined” rather than “locally determined critical occupations”. Since a college deferment was temporary, it really only meant delaying conscription liability. But perceptions are far more important to society that data.

    To be cont...


  23. IMHO, probably the biggest source of perceived disparity arose from college deferment. LJB's legislative initiatives in education (read that as making mega bucks available) were the basis for the explosive growth in size and number of public community colleges, a major benefiting sector of that money, starting in 1965. This gave an increasing portion of the population easy access to up to two years of draft deferment. And, to a limited degree, some universities dabbled in “open admissions” for the first time. Thus, coincident with the Viet Nam War, thousands and thousands of males, previously not eligible for college enrollment could do so, at least for a short period, instantly became Draft Cat II-S deferred. Now, a II-S was only valid while enrolled full time, in good academic standing and generally not beyond age 23. So, from this massively increased number of II-S students, there was a proportionally greater number of males losing their deferment not just due to earlier graduation (2 vs 4 year programs), but the higher drop out and flunk out rates arising from lower or no entrance standards (open admissions). When no longer a bona fide student, you were “reclassified”, typically to I-A, or draft eligible. “Reclassification” meant your file at the local board was pulled out and handled (read that as getting attention). Whether or not this handling increased your probability of selection is mere speculation, but it does provide fuel for wonderful myth. However, even if you graduate (age 20 or 22), you are now in the prime zone for conscription. Thus, the anti-draft mantra that the draft “was ripping boys out of college and sending them off to be killed”, when what was really happening was that II-S deferments were expiring by “natural means” and the students returned to their “normal position” in the pool of eligible. And at the same time, since ability to attend four year institutions tended to be more readily available to society’s better off, who also had a lower drop out rate, “deferment of the privileged at the expense of the downtrodden” was an easy perception to exploit. And once they graduated and might be drafted, the “ripping them out of college” mantra could be tossed about. The fact that significant numbers of graduates were not drafted simply because they were ROTC grads and entering the force "voluntarily" did not compute in the public perception. In fact, as late as 1969, ROTC was producing more officers than the active components could absorb, and after Officer Basic, many were being assigned to the Guard and Reserve. A perfect situation for the anti-war movement.

    It's kinda like the anti welfare crowd. They spot every Cadillac that parks in front of or near the welfare office, and don't see the hundreds or tired and weary shuffling through the door.

    (IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not judging the anti-war movement or its motives. That is a society’s right in a democracy. Just offering how inaccurate perceptions enter into the game).

    The Reserves are next...

  24. Chief-

    There are volumes written about the political error of LBJ's not using the RC in a time of medium mobilization. What he was trying to do, in effect is what GWB did, conduct a war at the least perceived inconvenience to the general population (Bullets and Butter). As a CGSC classmate put it, MacNamara's mathematical genius for building cars failed at DOD in many ways, and his "measuring inconvenience formula" was really way off.

    As to the RC, keep in mid that it was a "limited" means of avoiding active service. That's a long story in itself. The RC was at pretty close to full strength at the start of Viet Nam, and "hiding" there was limited by authorized end strength. So, while the war helped to the RC "full", that option was limited to vacancies afforded by normal attrition. Thus, the peddling of enlistment options to the "connected" probably did take place, but not anywhere near as much as the "connected's" proportion in the population.

    I would note that in many sections of the country, there were RC units that were at virtually full strength for decades before Viet Nam, simply due their social and/or historical status (often called "Silk Stocking Regiments"). For many of these units membership conveyed social status. Thus, there was a considerable number of “connected” appearing people already in the Guard and Reserve before the Viet Nam ramp up, many as senior NCOs and officers. There were also lot’s of Korean War vets that went into the reserve components and developed successful civilian and reserve careers, as well. But all those “Cadillacs” in the Armory parking lot were quite visible, even though many were owned by those who had been unit members for years.

    By the way, if you missed 8 or more “Drill Periods” in a given fiscal year, and had not completed your initial 6 or 8 year obligation, your Draft Status could be changed from II-D (Member of the Reserve Forces) to I-A (Available for Combat Service) and subject to conscription. While enforcement of this varied from unit to unit and branch to branch, finding drafted reservists in the active ranks did in deed happen. Our local USMCR unit had one such miscreant. He had already been order to “Remedial Active Duty for Unsat Attendance” for 12 days in his 4th year of reserve service and 30 days in his fifth year when he chose to skip two consecutive weekend drills in year six (1965), the year he could have earned his discharge and put his service behind him. It was said that the unit 1st Sgt hand carried the revocation of his II-D deferment to the local Draft Board. The guy got to spend 2 years in the Army as his reward, to include a trip to Viet Nam for the final 12 months. The 1st Sgt was quoted as saying he had no qualms about it, as the slacker was not going to be accessed into the Corps, so the 1stSgt’s loyalty to his Beloved Corps would remain intact in all ways. BTW, that 1stSgt was a WWII and Korea veteran, vice president of research at a pharmaceutical firm and parked his Cadillac in the armory lot during drills. He knew my HS algebra teacher from the Korean period, when she was a Woman Marine Major of considerable renown.

  25. Al,
    I find it interesting that we as a nation were founded on the principle of fearing a standing army , and now we just accept the assumption that military service is a requirement of citizenship.
    If a standing army is to be feared then too a standing draft ids to be feared.
    I for one believe that if we had an army of realistic numbers as does the FRG then we could fill it without a draft and without buying soldiers with bonus's etc.
    We don't need the army we have so i say we don't need a draft.
    i think i hear what you are saying.
    my cmts are addressing the system and not your observations that are well presented. I'm addressing the assumptions that you did not create.

  26. jim

    I think it's a stretch to say that at any time following WWII there was any notion of military service is a requirement of citizenship, especially since we never came near to a system or requirement for Universal National Service, which is a requirement of citizenship.

    The Selective Service Act was a valid federal law, and as with any and all laws, violation makes one liable for prosecution and, if convicted punishment. A conviction for violation of the Selective Service Act has no provision for loss of citizenship.

    I have noted before that the US has never had "Universal Military Service" or it's parallel, "Universal National Service" (a mandatory requirement for either military or public benefit service). Consequently, most foreign models and experiences, which were truly "Universal" in their obligatory requirements, cannot be used as a valid comparison. All that can be said about the Post WWII Draft in the US was that all able bodied males, unless legally deferred, were "subject to" possible conscription.

    I agree that the more central notion of a "standing army" is a legitimate topic of discussion. Conscription is a result of the decision to have a military, the size of that military and the manner in which policy makers choose to staff that military.

    I stand by my conclusion that the Draft was demonized hand in hand with the Viet Nam War, and subsequently made a proxy for the War by R.M. Nixon. The end result, over time, is that it became easier to embark on stupid adventures with stupid operational and strategic goals.

  27. jim-

    I have been writing since day one neither in support nor opposition to a "standing army". This is the decision of "We, The People" to make as we see fit through our constitutional form of representative government.

    That said, the United States of the Founding Fathers was a backwater, agrarian, bit player on the world stage. The Founders were also of the mind that only white males were full fledged citizens and that non-whites might possibly not be human beings.

    Times and conditions have changed a bit since then, and the Framers of the Constitution included Article V knowing full and well that times and conditions would change and that the Constitution must be able to adapt to such changes

  28. Al,

    "The end result, over time, is that it became easier to embark on stupid adventures with stupid operational and strategic goals."

    I think that is the about the only thing I disagree with. IMO a draft could work either way and has little effect on stupid adventures.

  29. Lest you think I'm spewing self-made radical thoughts:
    Chapter 3, titled "Conscription is a tax"

  30. I find it interesting that we as a nation were founded on the principle of fearing a standing army , and now we just accept the assumption that military service is a requirement of citizenship.

    I'm not sure that I buy either of these arguments, jim. The 1781 United States was, as Al points out, a small nation and a poor one. Much of the "fear" of a standing army in the colonies was the fear of paying for one. You'll note that almost as soon as the general worthlessness of the militia was re-proved in Shays and the Whiskey Rebellions the Congress re-authorized a volunteer professional force.

    And pretty much since there were republics one of the elements - not a "requirement" but certainly an element - of citizenship was taking part in the armed force of the republic. Since 1789 and the notion of the "nation in arms" and "the army as the school of the nation" that element has received even more authority. But nowhere here do I read anyone advocating some sort of "Starship Troopers" military-service-as-a-condition-of-citizenship.

  31. Chief,
    Ok so we were agrarian-so what? The strain betw. Hamilton and Jefferson is still with us in the form of the tea party as an example. Our political devide is based in this agrarian myth.
    If we didn't fear a standing army then why is the potus the c in c?
    Wasn't that a result of this fear?
    Also i'm in a cloud of fog here. Didn't the Federalist papers , and even the anti-federalist papers discuss the fear of standing armies in detail?
    Maybe history has changed since i got my degree in American Studies.

  32. Actually, jim, when you think about it making the President the "commander in chief" is a perhaps the most king-like thing about his position, and has been the source of a lot of kinglike mischief perpetrated by recent Presidents. Think about it - how many times did you hear people (typically neocons and other warloving types...) warning civilians like you and me who warned that getting involved in land wars in Asia was fucking stupid that the President was "our Commander in Chief"?

    More to the point was the Framers allocation of declaring war and ratifying peace treaties with the Congress, along with their insistence that the House prepare the federal budget. Giving the People in Congress the power of the purse was a good way to short-leash military adventurism, or so it seemed at the time.

    I won't disagree that many among the Founders and Framers wanted the U.S. to rely on the militia, and some of that was because of their fear of Praetorian treason among the soldiers of a professional army. (Actually, I'd argue that the Navy was a harder sell than the Army just because of the expense, but easier politically because of the difficulty in using it as a tool of domestic politics).

    But whatever the level of this fear may have been it wasn't translated into actual fact. The U.S. has had a regular army from the end of the Revolution. Yes, it was tiny from 1787 until 1808, but after that initial 21 years the standing army has been large enough that had an ambitious politician wanted to use it and had its officers been political enough it could have easily seized control of D.C.

    Comparing that period to today, though, is comparing apples to hand grenades. The modern U.S. isn't going to disband it's standing military forces, regardless of whether it "should" or not. Let us debate how strong they should be, and what we do with them, by all means, but let's not kid ourselves; the "fear of a standing army" debate was won by the standing army generations ago and to think that we can reopen it is to go to cloud-cuckoo-land...

  33. Chief,
    Yes i inhabit cloud -cuckoo land because i happen to believe that losing policies should be revamped and discussed.
    I find it amazing that anything can be elevated to god hood just because it's been in effect for generations.

  34. Sven- The purpose of the Gates Commission was to come up with a plan for an All Volunteer Force, not to make a full study of the conscripted force. The first nine words of Nixon in the announcement forming the Commission were:

    "To achieve the goal of an All Volunteer Force....."

    The second paragraph of that statement begins:

    I have directed the Commission to develop a comprehensive plan for eliminating conscription…..

    Anyone who thinks the Commission had a charter to compare the Draft and the AVF in anything but terms that made the AVF a positive step forward needs remedial reading and analysis lessons.

    The Draft ended on Nov 5, 1968 when the Presidential election results were tabulated. It just took another 5 years to make it look like Nixon's campaign promise had always been a carefully thought out and optimal concept by the Trickster in the first place.

  35. I would also add the following from Milton Friedman's memoirs, "Two Lucky People", reinforcing my statement that the Commission was charged with eliminating, not objectively evaluating the draft:

    Most presidential and congressional commissions are named to dispose of an issue that is politically troublesome. They hold hearings, prepare reports, and are never heard from again. This one was destined to be an exception. It was named to provide the support – intellectual, moral, and political – that was necessary to get policy favored by the president enacted. And it performed its function,

    No public-policy activity that I have ever engaged in has given me as much satisfaction as the All-Volunteer Commission. I regarded the draft as a major stain on our free society. I had talked and written against it for more than a decade. Membership in the commission enabled me to contribute to ending the draft far more directly

    Key words from the Cliff Notes Version:

    It [the Commission] was named to provide the support...... that was necessary to get policy favored by the president enacted