Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Selective Service System and the Strategic Reserve

By CAPT Samuel F. Wright, JAGC, USN (Ret.)

President Obama has nominated Larry Romo, a retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel from San Antonio, to be the next Director of the Selective Service System. The nomination will require Senate confirmation, and it is expected that he will be confirmed easily.

Congress abolished the draft in 1973, and the Selective Service System then went into a “deep drawdown” mode. In 1979, after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, President Carter reactivated the Selective Service System and reinstated draft registration. Young men are required to register upon turning 18. Compliance rates vary, but in recent years Congress has provided that draft registration is a condition precedent to eligibility for certain government benefits, including student loans and grants. Tying registration to grants has improved the rate of compliance with the registration requirement.

ROA Resolution 08-21 urges Congress to provide full funding for the Selective Service System, and Resolution 08-17 urges Congress to enact legislation tying Selective Service registration to eligibility to obtain a driver’s license or state identification card. ROA fully supports the registration requirement. In the unlikely but certainly not inconceivable event that the draft must be reinstated, because of some dire national emergency, having the young men registered would save very valuable time in getting them inducted, trained, and sent where needed.

During the Cold War, National Guard and Reserve forces provided our nation’s strategic reserve. If a major worldwide conflagration broke out, these Guard and Reserve units would be mobilized, but they were not mobilized for lesser military contingencies, including the Vietnam War.

Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, our National Guard and Reserve forces have been transformed from a strategic reserve to an operational reserve, and more than 740,000 Guard and Reserve personnel have been called to the colors, some more than once. Since the National Guard and Reserve have become the operational reserve, where is the strategic reserve? Our members frequently ask this question.

In my opinion, the registrants in the Selective Service System should be considered part of the Strategic Reserve. If a major, worldwide war were to break out, Congress would reinstate the draft the young men who have registered would be drafted. I don’t want to understate the difficulties involved in this approach. These young men have received no military training, and many are unable to meet the health and fitness standards of our Armed Forces. But in a really dire emergency, this is what it would come to. Fully funding the Selective Service System and requiring registration in advance are a small price to pay for this insurance policy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a 25 year career commissioned officer of the Army Reserve, the only real strategic reserve the Army has is the Individual Ready Reserve which HRC-St. Louis has administrative control over. The Selective Service System is in reality only a last resort draft. The bottom line is that the active component of all the armed services is simply too small. To compensate for the already short sightedness of our political leaders and our senior military leaders, the active duty folks have had to continually mobilize Guard/Reserve units. Without stop-loss in place and without the continued reelistments of so many in our ranks, we would be in dire straits. At any given time, the total worldwide commitment of US forces both CONUS and OCONUS probably exceeds close to 700,000+ soldiers, sailors, marines, etc. Our active forces need at least 1.5 million people on active duty alone. The Guard/Reserve components of all branches need to total at least another 1 million. One can clearly see that the US currently has a strategy-force structure mismatch. ARFORGEN, the program that is supposed to have equity between both active and reserve with regards to dwell time at home between deployments. That ratio, by DOD policy, ought to be one year boots on the ground to four years back home. Because we do not have enough troops overall, this policy is simply ink on the paper. It means nothing. The proof is in the multiple deployments of the same units and personnel over and over again. Surely with all the trillions of dollars the current Congress seems hellbent on spending, one would think the additional funds for more troops would not be an issue. But, then again, I'm only one soldier...not a politician. LTC P, USAR