Should the Military Draft be Reinstated?
About the Author

Merry, a native of Southern California, enlisted in the Air Force in 1982 as a Personnel Specialist. He was commissioned through AFROTC in 1989, earning his degree in Marketing from Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff Arizona. He holds a master's degrees in Human Resources Management and Military Arts & Science.

After his commissioning, Merry returned to the Personnel career field and served at every level of the Air Force. He was the Career Field Manager for Personnel, Manpower and Services, and was selected as the Air Force's Chief of Compensation and member of the 10th Quadrennial Review of Military Compensation. He has deployments to Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and other locations throughout the Middle East.

Merry is a graduate of Air Command and Staff College at Maxwell AFB, Alabama; and was the Senior Air Force Fellow at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California. At the time of his retirement he was the Commander of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations (AFMAO) responsible for DoD's sole Port Mortuary at Dover AFB, Delaware.

Should we bring back the draft?

Should women be required to register for selective service?

Every now and then, we get these questions or requests for MOAA to engage directly toward one result or the other. From our broad audience come equally broad opinions on both of these subjects.

MOAA’s position on the draft has been consistent: We support the all-volunteer “career” force as a necessary component of a strong national defense. Ever since the draft was eliminated in 1973, our military services have worked to recruit, train, and equip volunteers who join by choice — the result continues to be the most formidable, capable military on the planet. See our previous article, “The Core of Our Nation’s Military is the All-Volunteer Force,” for more on the topic of the all-volunteer force.

MOAA has deferred to the service and defense secretaries regarding women in combat, and in December 2015, then-Secretary of Defense Ash Carter opened all combat jobs to women. What didn’t follow was a decision to require women to register for selective service (the draft), and the following year was somewhat contentious on the topic because men registered, women did not.

In a 2016 survey, MOAA solicited feedback from our currently serving members on this issue. We found the majority of those currently serving said that with the opening of all combat roles to women, women should be required to register for the draft.

But not everyone agreed, thus keeping the issue of women registering for the draft alive on Capitol Hill and earning the attention of Congress, which stepped in to solve the problem by identifying the need for a study.

The FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act established the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service to “conduct a review of the military selective service process (commonly referred to as ‘‘the draft’’); and (2) consider methods to increase participation in military, national, and public service in order to address national security and other public service needs of the Nation.”

This study will take place over 30 months and will include the gathering of opinions and subject-matter reviews.

MOAA already has shared with commission members concerns regarding conscription as an offset to the challenges of getting volunteers. We were assured the efforts of the commission are quite broad and more focused on generally affecting the desire or propensity to serve. This might help solve the national problem without conscription. They did agree conscription would only be likely in a national crisis requiring the likes and numbers of citizens who quickly could be amassed, trained, and equipped — in other words, a global engagement.

The debate will continue, but you now get a voice in the process. You can provide your comments directly through the commission’s website, Share your thoughts on these seven questions, which are posted on the website above the answer block:

  1. Is a military draft or draft contingency still a necessary component of U.S. national security?
  2. Are modifications to the selective service system needed?
  3. How can the U.S. increase participation in military, national, and public service by individuals with skills critical to address the national security and other public service needs of the nation?
  4. What are the barriers to participation in military, national, or public service? 
  5. Does service have inherent value, and, if so, what is it?
  6. Is a mandatory service requirement for all Americans necessary, valuable, and feasible?
  7. How does the U.S. increase the propensity for Americans, particularly young Americans, to serve?


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