Since the Defense Department has declared that women can serve in any military capacity including combat infantry and special forces, Defense Secretary Ash Carter has indicated that young women might need to register for Selective Service. He has suggested that Congress debate and decide whether to make registration of women a legal requirement.
Though the law has always required 18-year old males to register, there has been no actual draft since the era of volunteer service began after 1973. Nevertheless, the suggestion that women must register has reignited anti-draft rhetoric like, “Do want your daughter to face combat?”
Despite concerns from a few voices—an actual military draft might be beneficial to female and male 18-year-olds alike. It might also provide numerous indirect benefits to the entire American population if implemented properly.
Should we consider a universal draft program for all eighteen-year-olds regardless of gender?
Requiring service of all 18-year olds would eventually result in a permanent military that represents a broader segment of the population. This broader population would allay fears expressed by political leaders that disadvantaged people and racial minorities now sacrifice more for the protection of the financially privileged population.
Here’s how a universal draft might work:
- All 18-year-old US citizens and legal residents—male or female—would report for mental and physical evaluation.
- All people physically and mentally fit for service would serve a minimum of six months that would begin before their nineteenth birthday.
- There would be no deferments or exemptions.
- Inductees requesting protection from combat assignment could choose a 12-month alternative, during which they would train for a non-combat assignment, such as vehicle repair, communications, food preparation, or database maintenance.
- Inductees objecting to all military support could choose a two-year assignment performing approved community service or public infrastructure construction.
- Draftees would accumulate pay at the same rate as a private E-1, but could only draw 10 percent monthly. All pay would become available to them after completing their term or assuming a longer term assignment.
- Most inductees would complete the program with skills for civilian jobs.
In this scenario, no inductee would face potential combat unless they chose to accept that risk. Several other countries, (e.g. Israel, Switzerland, Austria, and South Korea) have mandatory conscription though each has different alternative options for women.
A universal service program of this kind could offer numerous benefits for America, including:
- A general review of physical and mental health, offering early program engagement to young people with mental health risks.
- Reducing the unemployment rate.
- Providing an alternative for young urban people to exit from gang pressures.
- Reducing the street demand for illegal drugs.
- Offering each inductee a few thousand dollars in cash accumulated for payment at the end of their service term.
Would Americans agree to a program of this kind?
My book “The Victory that Wasn’t” offers a fictional alternate history with a different kind of Military, and better outcomes for all Americans. It’s available on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1GUL8oX