Draft, no, but Dempsey would support “universal” conscription

Forget a draft. The nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, said on Wednesday that he would support universal mandatory military service for all Americans. “You now — do I support a draft? I think there’s universal service, there’s selective service, and then there’s the all-volunteer force. If I ...

U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie
U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Brendan Mackie

Forget a draft. The nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, said on Wednesday that he would support universal mandatory military service for all Americans.

“You now -- do I support a draft? I think there’s universal service, there’s selective service, and then there’s the all-volunteer force. If I thought that we could adopt as a nation some form of universal service, I’d sign up for it in a second. Selective service really doesn’t become something that generally produces either the force you want -- because it becomes so restrictive, that the issue of being selective mostly means that there’s plenty of people who opt out, and those that opt out generally speaking then, cause a part of this society to bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey’s remarks during an appearance at the National Press Club came as he was explaining that he was “very content” with the quality and demographic representation in the all-voluntary military of America at large.

Forget a draft. The nation’s top military officer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, said on Wednesday that he would support universal mandatory military service for all Americans.

“You now — do I support a draft? I think there’s universal service, there’s selective service, and then there’s the all-volunteer force. If I thought that we could adopt as a nation some form of universal service, I’d sign up for it in a second. Selective service really doesn’t become something that generally produces either the force you want — because it becomes so restrictive, that the issue of being selective mostly means that there’s plenty of people who opt out, and those that opt out generally speaking then, cause a part of this society to bear a disproportionate share of the responsibility,” Dempsey said.

Dempsey’s remarks during an appearance at the National Press Club came as he was explaining that he was “very content” with the quality and demographic representation in the all-voluntary military of America at large.

In the past, however, Dempsey has spoken of having military service be part of some type of national service for all Americans.

Currently, all U.S. males age 18-25 must register with the Selective Service System. If Congress ever authorized a draft, a lottery would begin picking from 20-year old males first, then likely move up in age as needed. The agency says 18 and 19 year olds probably would not be drafted.  Those with low lottery numbers then get evaluated for eligibility and have time to file for deferments.

In a universal service, all youths, even women in some countries, have to serve some prescribed time in uniform.

Could universal service really work in American, though?

“I’d have to see the mechanism before I agreed to the path, because it’s the mechanism that’ll make all the difference,” he said, skeptically.

Kevin Baron is a national security reporter for Foreign Policy, covering defense and military issues in Washington. He is also vice president of the Pentagon Press Association. Baron previously was a national security staff writer for National Journal, covering the "business of war." Prior to that, Baron worked in the resident daily Pentagon press corps as a reporter/photographer for Stars and Stripes. For three years with Stripes, Baron covered the building and traveled overseas extensively with the secretary of defense and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, covering official visits to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Middle East and Europe, China, Japan and South Korea, in more than a dozen countries. From 2004 to 2009, Baron was the Boston Globe Washington bureau's investigative projects reporter, covering defense, international affairs, lobbying and other issues. Before that, he muckraked at the Center for Public Integrity. Baron has reported on assignment from Asia, Africa, Australia, Europe, the Middle East and the South Pacific. He was won two Polk Awards, among other honors. He has a B.A. in international studies from the University of Richmond and M.A. in media and public affairs from George Washington University. Originally from Orlando, Fla., Baron has lived in the Washington area since 1998 and currently resides in Northern Virginia with his wife, three sons, and the family dog, The Edge. Twitter: @FPBaron

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