The Pentagon said yesterday it has no plans to bring back the draft to meet the manpower requirements that might be generated by going to war in the Persian Gulf.
The prospect of high casualties if U.S. troops have to dig out entrenched Iraqis in Kuwait has caused some military manpower specialists to ponder where the replacements with the required combat skills would come from.
"I've seen no discussion of re-imposing the draft," Pentagon spokesman Pete Williams said yesterday when asked if the Defense Department has contingency plans to resume the draft to provide replacements.
The last draft calls were issued in December 1972, toward the end of the Vietnam War. President Nixon, rather than continue to ask Congress for another one-year extension of the authority to conscript, in 1973 let that authority lapse and shifted to an all-volunteer military which exists today.
To bring back the draft, either Congress or President Bush would have to initiate legislative action, something neither is inclined to do given the likelihood of political backlash. This means replacements for the Persian Gulf forces now deployed would almost certainly be filled by activating more reservists once active duty forces based elsewhere could not fill the need.
Martin Binkin, a manpower specialist at the Brookings Institution, said yesterday that a more fundamental question about the draft right now is whether it would be fairer than leaving the nation's defense to today's all-volunteer force. Critics of the all-volunteer force contend that combat units are composed largely of the nation's have-nots who are being asked to risk their lives for those better off.