The nation's top Navy officer yesterday warned that resuming the draft would bring back the trauma of the Vietnam era.
In sounding that warning, Adm. Thomas B. Hayward, chief of naval operations, took a harder line against the draft than have his colleagues on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Once you go to the draft," Hayward said, "I can see all the dissidents coming out of the woodwork and going through all that trauma our country" suffered during Vietnam.
"I don't want that," he said.
Resuming conscription "would set up all those negative attitudes about military life" growing out of Vietnam "that we have managed to overcome," Hayward added.
"I think there is a neutral attitude out there today" toward the military. "It might even be positive. We're not having that much trouble recruiting people."
Although none of the military services met goals for volunteers in fiscal 1979, Hayward said he is much more worried about retaining skilled petty officers in the Navy than in new recruits.
Several members of Congress have warned that a resumption of the draft may be necessary to fill the military ranks. The JCS has called for draft registration, but stopped short of recommending conscription.
Hayward is the first member of the JCS to come out strongly against conscription on the grounds that it would lead to domestic turmoil.
"I wish the draft had never gone away," he said of its suspension in 1973. "But it did. It's now almost seven years later, and don't think this country wants the draft."
The best way to solve the Navy's manpower problems, he continued, is to pay those now in uniform more so they will remain.
Many ships are critically short of the skilled people needed to run them, Navy officials complain. This shortage is reducing the ability of the fleet to fulfill peacetime missions or go to war, they say.
"If I retained 4,000 more mid-grade petty officers" each year, "that's 20,000 recruits" who would not have to be trained to take their places, Hayward said.