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The Military Draft


The Army is the only branch of the US Armed forces which has relied on conscription, popularly known in the US as "The Draft." In 1973, at the end of the Vietnam War, Congress abolished the draft in favor of an all-volunteer Army (AVA).

The Army, Army Reserve and Army National Guard are not meeting recruiting goals, and junior officers are not re-enlisting. Soldiers have been forced to fight in Iraq for long tours of duty, with little relief in sight. These pressures have caused some leaders to insist that reinstating the draft is inevitable.

The draft was abandoned in 1973 in large part due to protests and a general belief that the draft was unfair: that it targeted less affluent members of society because, for example, of college deferments. However, that was not the first time Americans had protested a draft; that distinction belongs to the Civil War, with the most famous riots occurring in New York City in 1863.

Today the all-volunteer Army is criticized because its ranks of minorities are disproportionate to the general population and because recruiters target less affluent teenagers who have poor job prospects after graduation. It is also criticized for its access to the nation's youth; high schools and colleges that receive federal monies are required to allow recruiters on campus.

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"Army lieutenants and captains left the service [in 2004] at an annual rate of 8.7 percent — higher than any year since 2001," according to Seattle Times and yet "grunts" find their contracts extended for decades through what has been called a backdoor draft. Stop-loss orders prevent soldiers from departing at the end of their contract. The military says this practice was authorized by Executive Order 13223 issued by President Bush on Sept. 14, 2001.

The government's fiscal year ends September 30, so the Army is two-thirds through its recruiting year. According to the Pentagon, the Army is 17 percent under goal; the Army Reserve, 20 percent; and the Army National Guard, 24 percent. Moreover, 40 percent of the AVA are minorities; 23 percent are black.

However, the decline in recruitment has hit the minority component hard. The percent of blacks in each year's recruits has dropped steadily since 2001 (22.7 percent). For 2004, the percentage was 15.9 percent. In February 2005, the percentage was 13.9, closer to proportional representation.

Although this decline counters the argument that the all-volunteer Army is not representative, it does little to relieve the pressures on active duty servicemen.
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