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Will Obama’s Defense Cuts Lead to a Military Draft?

Forces will be stripped, recruitment will be difficult, and gutting defense "will threaten the foundations of the all-volunteer force" as crises abound.

Bridget Johnson


February 28, 2013 - 6:50 pm

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) today echoed the concerns of those who fear President Obama has shown a willingness to break the military through repeated cuts and a low prioritization in saving operational and maintenance funds over pet domestic programs.

“The cuts he continues to insist on, while below the level of sequestration, are still severe enough to hollow out our force. This approach forces me to conclude that the president, for all his stump speeches and props, wants the sequester to happen,” McKeon wrote in a Los Angeles Times op-ed. “The president is forcing America to indulge him in this dangerous experiment with national security.”

That experiment, as military leaders have told committee after committee in hearings leading up to Friday’s sequestration, would scar military readiness to a point where this superpower may not be able to bounce back.

Training will be skipped. Flight hours will be cut. Even Special Forces are not immune from the hit.

Obama has ordered military pay to be excluded from the cuts, even as roughly 750,000 civilian employees — political appointees and foreign nationals excluded — face furloughs that amount to a 20 percent pay cut. That cuts into the support staff for military operations.

And a recurring theme under the surface of the daunting figures thrown out by the chiefs of staff lately is fear for the very future of America’s all-volunteer military force.

If the military continues to be gutted under Obama, fewer men and women are expected to walk through the doors of recruiting offices. If there aren’t enough men and women in uniform come the next conflict, will this administration or the next — which will be left to mop up the damage at the Pentagon — be forced to institute the draft?

At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing earlier this month, Marine Corps Commandant James Amos warned that sequestration “invalidates the careful planning of the services to manage a predictable resource decline, replacing it instead with a dramatic resourcing cliff that guarantees inefficiency, waste in its accommodation.”

“The effects of sequestration, over the long term, will threaten the foundations of the all-volunteer force, putting the nation’s security on a vector that is potentially ruinous,” Amos said. “It dramatically shapes perceptions of our government, as both an employer and as a customer, reducing confidence throughout institutions.”

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno predicted cuts “will impact our units’ basic warfighting skills and induce shortfalls across critical specialties, including aviation, intelligence, engineering, and even our ability to recruit soldiers into our Army.”

The Pentagon was hit by $487 billion in cuts and a continuing resolution that tied its hands in directing funding to needed operations before the $500 billion sequestration tab was added on.

“We must be mindful of the corrosive effect of this uncertainty on the morale of our people and be vigilant regarding the potential effects of sequestration on the propensity of our force to stay with us and of new recruits to join,” said Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of Naval Operations.

Leaders reiterated these warnings to the House Armed Services panel the next day.

“The effects of sequestration over the next 10 years will threaten the foundations of the all-volunteer force, putting the nation’s security on a vector that is potentially dangerous,” Amos said.

At a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing this week on the impacts of budget cuts on military strength, lawmakers heard confirmation that despite Obama’s pledge to put troops first that many may be on the chopping block.

“In the case of the Army, we will come to a point where unfortunately we’ll have to use some involuntary separation measures,” Army Deputy Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Howard B. Bromberg testified. “In the case of the Army, it will probably be about 24,000 enlisted and about 7,000 officers.”

Why Obama has been lackadaisical about the risks posed by force reduction and readiness cuts may reflect his unwillingness to fight new battles after campaign-talking-point pullouts from Iraq and, next year, Afghanistan. His desire for major cuts in nuclear weapons and endorsement of the Global Zero initiative reflect a worldview willing to power down regardless of moves taken by nefarious regimes or terrorist entities.

Even Obama’s proposal to avert the sequester, which puts 50 percent of the cuts on a department that uses 18 percent of the budget, would take $250 billion out of the military in addition to tax hikes.

His new Defense secretary, fueled by opposition to the Iraq war, said in 2004 he was “not so sure that isn’t a bad idea” to bring back the draft.

Appearing with Chuck Hagel on an episode of the Today show back then, Sen. Joe Biden said he didn’t rule out a draft, adding, “I don’t think it’s necessary now.”

“The whole notion of shared burden is something we should be talking about well beyond the issue of just the draft,” Biden said in a statement that could similarly apply to the administration’s fairness doctrine on tax rates.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) this month advocated the use of a draft as an anti-war tool, saying “if a president can’t convince the Congress to support the draft, then he should not be bringing the question of war in front of the Congress or the American people.”

“If this country has its security threatened, I would like to believe that all of us, no matter how old we are, would want to do something. And in this case, it will be universal,” he said. “…Listen, the military takes what it can get.”

Rangel introduced a bill after the Pentagon’s announcement women would be allowed in combat roles to require Selective Service registration for all, effective 60 days after the bill’s passage. It has one co-sponsor, Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.).

Still, Reps. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) have re-launched a quiet effort to eliminate the Selective Service altogether, arguing that the office is antiquated and is a waste of $24 million a year.

“The Selective Service System was never meant to be permanent. Now, 31 years and over $700 million later, Congress has yet to give serious consideration to establishing a conscripted force,” Coffman, a combat veteran, wrote in 2011 after first introducing the bill. “It is time to end the registration requirement and dismantle the Selective Service System.”

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (12)
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The Military is already throwing people out the door, based on last years budget cuts and no one complained. The claims of catastrophy are overblown. 80 billion in REAL CUTS were asorbed in the early 1990s and continued throughout the 90s and the services dealt with it quite handily. The "need' for a draft is ludicrous and is just another scare tactic from the Ruling Class.

The Military has been one of the FEW Federal entities that, when given a budget cut, salutes and executes it, rather than become rent-seeking whiners, like the Federal Employees Unions.

Lets not turn the Military into yet another whiney tax money seeking interest group, OK?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, well today's private e1 makes 35000 dollars a year. That's a far cry from 750 dollars a year for a private e1 in 1968. The growth in current military pay and benefits are not sustainable at current tax rates. Frankly, the privates are now so expensive it's no longer cost effective to get 58000 killed in a ten year war, much less one battle on the order of WW1. So what if you have a ten to one kill ratio? If the enemy has no problem with a half a million casualties at a dime a dozen while Americans wimp out at 6000 after a trillion dollars spent what's the point? We couldn't even respond to Benghazi in time with all the available force multipliers and intelligence at hand, and that was before the sequester. Of course, once all the political exceptions (exemptions and deferments) to the "universal draft" are allowed for (can't draft violent domestic female abusers and homophobes and graduate school missionaries to France) there probably wouldn't be many souls left to draft. But, on a lighter note, for the few non-pot heads with GEDs left to draft that can pass a urine test at least they wouldn't have to shoot themselves in the foot to get out of the front lines in the next "unjust war": If you're Private Benjamin just goose Private Suzie and that should do it. Besides, I've always been puzzled over why it's so bad to be "Islamophobic" but it's okay to draft only select eighteen year old males to go and shoot them?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't know where you're getting your numbers. Going to this pay scale [], an E-1 has a base pay of $1515.20 a month, or $18,194.40 a year. That E-1 may have additional allowances such as hazardous duty pay but not everyone gets it. In fairly rare circumstances, he/she might get separate rations allowance where they get money to buy their food instead of being provided food. Housing allowances for E-1s are not impossible but that was very uncommon in my military experience or that of anyone I know. Most E-1s are still in training. They live on base in provided quarters and eat in the dining facilities.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
This veteran and retiree says yes to sequester and the draft. I never believe the doomsday cry of the pentagon. The military of my day did not expire because of the peace dividends at the end of the Cold War. Yes it suffered , but the changes we had to make to adjust despite all the hand wringing made us face needed changes that made us better prepared for future conflicts in Iraq. A draft force is bound to have a better ration of normal/abomination ratio. The problem is the turn over in a draft based force. it takes much time to train in critical technical fields , to the extent that the military becomes a training ground for the civilian work force, trained and out, so the conscripts would of practicality be 'cannon fodder' or front line soldiers.

Back to sequestration, it is Obama's problem , he created it, it is a start, do it! Maybe in the long run it will force traitors in the Senate to pass a budget and address necessary spending cuts where they most need to be! They may even over ride this president and start some programs that actually create jobs instead of stifling them. We will need a place/jobs for all those soldiers returning from combat. The only reason Obama has not brought the military home to date and stood most of them down is his fear of what it is going to do to his jobs numbers. Now in his last four years of his perpetual campaign he need not worry much about that because those who put him in office (discounting the obvious fraud) do not care about increased welfare, food stamps, and unemployment!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Islandweller: "The USA has a SPENDING problem not a SEQUESTRATION problem not a REVENUE problem."

Are you sure? Some Big Wig said: We don't have a spending problem, we have a pay-for problem.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"24,000 enlisted and 7,600 officers". Sounds like those 20% of young black males knew what was coming with the one's reelection. For some, no job or occupation, for some others no way to deal with a wayward young adult, and for the rest a force multiplier of Dorners for the other gang.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Ummm... so they're talking about instituting a draft to get people they say they can't afford to pay after gutting the service of people they say will have to go because they can't afford them? Is that where the volk in charge are going with it or am I (hOpefully) mistaken?
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
More hysteria. Uh no, the fact that the sequestration (a word that I am getting REALLY tired of) will slow the rate of spending GROWTH across the board, it will not put American young ladies (or gays) in danger of being drafted. Gawd!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well, if they do ever have to institute a draft I think they should only draft women - after all, they've a lot of catching up to do to get to the number of men that have been drafted over all the years. You know, equality and all that stuff.

(yes, I am being sarcastic if you can't tell. Well, sort of anyway)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
and yet, i still hear obama-phones still ringing.

$26 million prez vacations. millions of illegals getting illegal welfare & SS benefits.

he releases violent criminal illegals back into society to rape & murder to punish Americans.

kinda like a guy who would sell thousands of weapons and ammo to murderous mexican drug cartels - trying to create a sandy hook? why else?

kinda like a guy who refused to get our people out of benghazi.

letting this crazy crowd keep running our government is masochistic and will not end well.

gutting the military is the dream of every islamic terrorist, present company included.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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