Monday, July 18, 2005

 

Disaster Recovery, and Disaster Recovery

My cousin’s fiancée (who is 35) is in Iraq now; one of my brother’s oldest friends (who is 31) has been deployed, and is due into Iraq this week.

The American military is lowering its entrance standards, and its recruiting targets, and it’s still falling short of its recruitment goals. My cousin’s fiancée has already been nailed with a stop-loss order, and the rumors are swirling that it won’t be the last. Meanwhile, the London bombings showed us that al-Queda recruitment is doing quite well.

In the absence of a sudden outbreak of common sense, I can’t help but wonder if a draft is the next step. As a college administrator, the shape of a draft is a very real issue.

Until the early 1970’s, students enrolled in college (or graduate school) were given draft deferments until they graduated. Not surprisingly, as the Vietnam war dragged on, college enrollments skyrocketed. The student deferment was eliminated on the grounds that it was elitist (as opposed to the demographically-representative volunteer army?).

In the absence of a student deferment, and depending on the size of the draft, we could face the decimation of our college. If the student deferment were to return, we could double our tuition and still have to beat back applicants at the door. Since we’re an open-admissions school, we would be the deferment of last resort. (Honestly, given a national network of low-tuition, open-admissions colleges, the ‘elitism’ argument strikes me as a bit threadbare. But then, I’m hardly impartial.)

We’re utterly unequipped for either scenario. Students getting drafted out of classes would wreak havoc in any number of ways; people enrolling just to get deferments would wreak havoc in others. We’ve had limited experience recently with students’ Guard units getting called up mid-semester, but that’s less disruptive because the numbers are smaller, and students signed up for the Guard.

It’s hard to do long-term planning with a variable this large just hanging out there. I assume that a draft would be politically unpopular, and I assume too that the politicians know that. That said, I wouldn’t put anything past these people.

Sometimes I’m glad The Boy is four.

I hope I’m wrong. I hope that we’re able to extricate ourselves from Iraq with peace, honor, and justice, and that Anna and Wes will come home safe. But hope isn’t a policy. On campus, we refer to disaster-recovery plans in the context of power outages, floods, and computer crashes; this kind of disaster, we can’t plan for.

Comments:
Defeating the terrorists in Iraq will be easier that getting the draft reinstated in this country. What's more, the military itself opposes the draft, from my understanding, due to the common wisdom that the quality of recruits has gone up markedly since the draft ended. Plus there are infrastructure costs to the draft that present a large enough obstacle that only a second 9/11 scale attack would be sufficient to surmount it.

The better, and probably more cost effective, near-term answer to a manpower shortage is the market's answer--pay 'em more, pay 'em something closer to what they deserve. Even with combat pay, even making that tax-free, we're not paying the military folks enough for the risks they are taking.
 
It's hard not to think about the possibility of a draft. I have three teenage boys, the oldest of whom will turn eighteen next year. The teenage boys who hang out at my house talk about the possibility of a draft all the time. None want to fight in a war they don't support.
 
A draft is a dead certain no-go. Absolutely everything would have to change to accomodate it from the way we train recruits to procurement, to NCO standards, to doctrine. The first thing that would have to happen is that all of the "transformation" steps that have been taken would have to be undone and then redone in another mold. The DoD, as a whole, would have to be taken off-line for a minimum of 12 to 24 months to accomodate it. Further, experienced troops like me would not remain; it might result in more manpower, but it will be a headless, inexperienced organization.

Incidentally, once annot be hit with more than one stop-loss order. It doesn't work that way. When stop-loss is in effect, the soldiers of a unit that has been alerted for deployment my not End Term of Service (ETS) or retire unless for attaining maximum military age (60), until either stood-down from alert or 90 days after redeploying (returning home). At either point all those who would have separated, do so. Nothing sinister in this. It is a policy that allows the military to stabilize rosters for planning purposes. Nothing more.
 
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