Unfortunately, the majority of those who would be eligible for the draft today do not meet the standards for military service, for physical fitness and other reasons. People are the military’s most important asset. But if the objective is to maintain at reasonable costs an effective military force, the draft fails this test. If the objective is to require all young people to serve their country, there are numerous possible alternatives beyond making the military the only outlet.
Some critics argue that our voluntary military does not represent the society it protects. The facts refute these contentions: Recruits come from all parts of the country, from all income levels. They are all races and ethnicities. The force mirrors our diverse society, with black and Hispanic recruits reflecting their share of the population — about 15 and 17 percent of youths, respectively — and an increasing number coming from middle- and upper-income households, Defense data show.
Some have argued for the draft as a cost-cutting measure. But this is misguided. For a given level of force effectiveness, a volunteer force is less costly than a draft force. Among the reasons: A conscripted force has a higher level of turnover. Draftees tend to serve shorter terms and reenlist at lower rates. Training costs are therefore higher, and increased training time means less operational performance time. During the draft era, about one in eight stayed after his first term; with the volunteer force, closer to one in two wants to stay. A volunteer force is also more motivated. People perform better when their service is voluntary as opposed to coerced.