Mend, Never End, the All-Volunteer Force

The U.S. Selective Service System has been dead now for more than a quarter of a century. Despite a rocky start, the All-Volunteer Force (AVF) that replaced the draft now provides America with the highest quality military in its history and the finest armed services in the world today. Yet, recruiting and retention problems have long been apparent, and 1999 proved to be the Pentagon’s toughest recruiting year since the early 1980s. As a result, Washington is hearing increasing calls for a return to conscription. But the draft was bad policy during the Cold War and would be especially foolish today. Renewed conscription would simultaneously reduce the quality of new servicemen and increase the cost of the military. Nor would a draft ease the problem of retaining skilled personnel or inculcate civic virtue among American youth as a whole. Perhaps conscription’s greatest negative would be its injustice, since it compromises the very constitutional liberties that the U.S. military exists to defend.

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