Women, Selective Service and rebuilding the armed forces
By Dave Ficere
Last February, one Republican congressman accused the commander in chief of devastating the military through budget cuts:
“President Obama, with his plan of sequestration, has really hollowed out our military,” Ohio Representative Michael Turner told a New York radio host. “We’ve seen our military readiness [and] the capabilities of our military decline significantly,” Turner added.
Now, one year later, a new president is looking to rebuild the U.S. military as part of his campaign to “Make America Great Again.” The big questions are: can he do it and at what cost? Will it entail reinstituting the military draft and would such a draft also include women?[MORE]
As is the case with most government programs, much of the debate centers around how the administration will pay for its ambitious defense buildup. There is also the question of whether the Trump team can find enough able and willing recruits to meet the staffing needs of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines without reinstituting the military draft.
While campaigning for president, Donald Trump called for a return to pre-sequestration force levels, including a 540,000-member Army, a 350-ship Navy and an Air Force of 1,200 fighter aircraft.
Trump’s plan for the Army alone would put the service’s total back to levels seen at the height of the U.S.-led wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. More ambitious, is the White House plan to boost the Marine Corps to 36 infantry battalions – more than 200,000 Marines – which would put the service at force levels not seen since Vietnam.
In an effort to keep some active troop members, the Army is offering soldiers who have the option of leaving before October incentive bonuses of $10,000 or more to stay on for another 12 months. The Army Times says the incentives are partially due to the fact that the service is scrambling to meet the mandate of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act, which says the active Army must have 476,000 soldiers in the next eight months.
“President Trump has an opportunity to address a readiness issue that has not received sufficient attention in recent years,” says retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr, director of the Heritage Foundation’s Center for National Defense.
Where will these new recruits come from? According to the most recent assessment of possible military manpower by the nonprofit Center for Naval Analyses, only about 17 percent of all military-age Americans would be found to be physically “qualified and military available” for service.
Some have suggested either reinstituting the military draft or requiring women to register with Selective Service as men are required to do when they turn 18. While the U.S. hasn’t had a military draft since 1973, during the Vietnam War era, the Obama administration last December declared its support for requiring women to register with Selective Service.
Some countries – like Sweden – are moving back toward establishing a military draft, in a move that Politico columnist Elisabeth Braw calls “a sign of more uncertain times and the result of difficulties Sweden has had in filling its military roster with only volunteer forces.”
“Though armed forces are having to refocus on territorial defense, they don’t need soldiers for trenches, but highly skilled young men and women who can be trusted with expensive high-tech equipment. And the best conscripts are given positions of responsibility a 19-year-old could only dream of in civilian life,” Braw adds.
One need only to look at America’s ally, Israel, to see how such a system works.
While some exceptions are made for religious, physical or psychological reasons, enlistment to the Israeli Defense Forces is mandatory for all Israeli citizens who have turned 18. The normal length of compulsory service is two years and eight months for men, and two years for women.
Should American teenagers of both sexes be required to register for Selective Service or be asked to commit two years of their life to serving the nation? Would this help many young adults become more grounded in life and acquire skills they can use in the workplace and as they take their place in society?
These are weighty questions to ponder as President Trump and his team look at rebuilding America’s military to address threats around the world. As God leads, pray:
- For President Trump in his role as commander in chief
- For America’s military leaders as they plan for the future
- For the men and women currently serving in the military both at home and abroad
Dave Ficere is the News Editor for the US Prayer Watch Network, a ministry of the Presidential Prayer Team. He lives in Surprise, Arizona.